P. 1
9377726 Translating Cultures

9377726 Translating Cultures

|Views: 22|Likes:
Publicado pordaniel.escaleira

More info:

Published by: daniel.escaleira on Sep 11, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd
See more
See less






  • Paula Rubel and Abraham Rosman
  • Aram A. Yengoyan
  • Todd Jones
  • Michael Silverstein
  • Michael Herzfeld
  • Deborah Kapchan
  • Webb Keane
  • Brinkley Messick

Translating Cultures

Translating Cultures
Perspectives on Translation and Anthropology

Edited by Paula G. Rubel and Abraham Rosman

Oxford • New York

First published in 2003 by Berg Editorial offices: 1st Floor, Angel Court, 81 St Clements Street, Oxford, OX4 1AW, UK 838 Broadway, Third Floor, New York, NY 10003-4812, USA © Paula G. Rubel and Abraham Rosman 2003 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the written permission of Berg.

Berg is an imprint of Oxford International Publishers Ltd.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Translating cultures : perspectives on translation and anthropology / edited by Paula G. Rubel and Abraham Rosman. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 1-85973-740-4 – ISBN 1-85973-745-5 (pbk.) 1. Communication in ethnology. 2. Ethnology–Authorship. 3. Translating and interpreting. 4. Intercultural communication. I. Rubel, Paula G. II. Rosman, Abraham. GN307.5.T73 2003 306—dc21 2003000652

British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

ISBN 1 85973 740 4 (Cloth) ISBN 1 85973 745 5 (Paper)

Typeset by JS Typesetting Ltd, Wellingborough, Northants. Printed in the United Kingdom by Biddles Ltd, Guildford and King’s Lynn.

Acknowledgments Notes on Contributors Introduction: Translation and Anthropology Paula G. Rubel and Abraham Rosman Part I: General Problems of Translation 1 Lyotard and Wittgenstein and the Question of Translation Aram A. Yengoyan Translation and Belief Ascription: Fundamental Barriers Todd Jones Translation, Transduction, Transformation: Skating “Glossando” on Thin Semiotic Ice Michael Silverstein vii ix







Part II Specific Applications 4 The Unspeakable in Pursuit of the Ineffable: Representations of Untranslatability in Ethnographic Discourse Michael Herzfeld Translating Folk Theories of Translation Deborah Kapchan Second Language, National Language, Modern Language, and Post-Colonial Voice: On Indonesian Webb Keane Notes on Transliteration Brinkley Messick –v–








Contents 8 The Ethnographer as Pontifex Benson Saler Text Translation as a Prelude for Soul Translation Alan F. Segal Structural Impediments to Translation in Art Wyatt MacGaffey Are Kinship Terminologies and Kinship Concepts Translatable? Abraham Rosman and Paula G. Rubel







269 285


– vi –

We hope that this volume fulfills the expectations of all those who helped to bring it about. As we talked and discussed the papers around a large table. and Douglas Robinson. We also wish to thank Mansour Kamaletdinov for all his assistance in preparation of the manuscript and for particular attention to detail. Jean McCurry and her staff made all the necessary arrangements. and especially to Sydel Silverman. We wish to thank Michael Silverstein.Acknowledgments The chapters of this volume were first presented as papers and discussed at a conference. Some of the points made during those discussions are included in the Introduction to this volume (referenced by name). and in addition Suzanne Blier. Simon Ortiz. The participants at the conference included those whose papers comprise the chapters of this volume. held at Barnard College. Barnard College provided the venue for the conference. Serge Gavronsky. President of the Foundation at that time for her support. Columbia University. Translation and Anthropology. Kathryn Earle of Berg press has been particularly helpful in organizing the publication of this volume. Michael Herzfeld. We would like to thank all of the participants for their particularly illuminating and lively discussion during our meeting. the problem confronting another’s ideas. interpreting them. and Alan Segal for their input in helping us to organize the conference. Arnold Krupat. which made the conference a memorable event. We want to thank President Judith Shapiro and Provost Elizabeth Boylin who were particularly helpful. All the papers were circulated before the conference took place. Paula Rubel Abraham Rosman New York City – vii – . 10–12 November 1998. We are very grateful to the Wenner Gren Foundation which sponsored the conference. brought back to each of us the basic issue of translating a different and sometimes strange culture into our language and our culture. grasping what the interlocutor was getting at.


Donne Prize on the Anthropology of Art and has been awarded the Rivers Memorial Medal (Royal Anthropological Institute). Wyatt MacGaffey is John R. He is the author of numerous articles in both philosophy and social science journals and is currently working on a volume about reductionism and belief in the Social Sciences. – ix – . He has published extensively on social scructures. She is the author of Gender on the Market: Moroccan Women and the Revoicing of Tradition (1996) and is currently completing a manuscript on music. the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Social Science Research Council. semiotics. Webb Keane is a Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Michigan. she was the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship to translate Moroccan poetry in dialect into English. the Institute for Advanced Study. Coleman Professor of Social Sciences Emeritus at Haverford College. She writes about performance. He has had fellowships and grants from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. the National Science Foundation. He has received fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. the Center for the Advanced Study of the Behavior Sciences and the National Endowment for the Humanities. music and aesthetics. He was a Ford Foundation Fellow and the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. narrative and trance in the context of the Moroccan Gnawa performance. He is the winner of the J.Notes on Contributors Michael Herzfeld is Professor of Anthropology at Harvard University. B. religious language. Todd Jones is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Nevada. He is the author of Signs of Recognition: Powers and Hazards of Representation in an Indonesian Society (1997). Ann Arbor. Deborah Kapchan is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin. as well as many articles on missionaries and modernity. history and art of Central Africa and his most recent work is Kongo Political Culture: the Conceptual Challenge of the Particular (2000). politics. poetics. He is the author of eight books. etc. Las Vegas. In 2001. the more recent being Portrait of a Greek Imagination and Anthropology: Theoretical Practice In Culture and Society.

He has received a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship as well as grants from the National Science Foundation. She has been the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. Paula G. they are doing research on collecting artifacts. He has done anthropological research with Professor Paula Rubel for many years and they have jointly published many articles and books. the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and the Fulbright Program. Currently. Professor Saler has held grants and fellowships from the National Science Foundation. the Social Science Research Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Second Edition. Alan F. His research has been funded by the Social Science Research Council. He is the author of Conceptualizing Religion (paperback edition 2000) and co-author of UFO Crash at Roswell: The Genesis of a Modern Myth (1997). the Annenberg Foundation. a regime of an Islamic State. Afghanistan and Papua New Guinea and most recently have been doing research on the collecting of objects. –x– . Afghanistan and Papua New Guinea. Benson Saler is Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Brandeis University. Segal is Professor of Religion and the Ingeborg Rennert Professor of Jewish Studies at Barnard College. Paul the Convert and Charting the Hereafter: The Afterlife in Western Culture. most particularly ethnographic artifacts in America.Notes on Contributors Brinkley Messick is Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University. particularly ethnographic objects. Abraham Rosman is Professor Emeritus of the Department of Anthropology at Barnard College. Columbia University. Their book The Tapestry of Culture is currently going into its eighth edition. Their book The Tapestry of Culture is going into its eighth edition. Columbia University. He is the author of Rebecca’s Children: Judaism and Christianity in the Roman World. the National Endowment of the Arts and Humanities and the Wenner Gren Foundation. She has jointly done research with Professor Abraham Rosman for many years in Iran. and grants from the National Institutes of Mental Health. Columbia University. the Ford Foundation and the Social Science Research Council. Disneyana and Black American. He was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow. Rubel is Professor Emerita of the Department of Anthropology at Barnard College. They have published many articles and books. They have done research in Iran. Second Edition. and has received grants from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. in the United States. the Melton Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. including Feasting with Mine Enemy: Rank and Exchange among Northwest Coast Societies. including Feasting with Mine Enemy: Rank and Exchange among Northwest Coast Societies. He is the author of The Calligraphic State and is completing a new work on shari’a.

He was the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. and Egalitarianism among the Mandays of Southeast Mindanao. His recent publications include Religion. MacArthur Foundation. and Prophetic Traditions: Conversion among the Pitjantjatjara of Central Australia. Morality. and was a member of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and received grants from the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations. Aram A.Notes on Contributors Michael Silverstein is Charles F. Grey Distinguished Service Professor in the Departments of Anthropology. He was also awarded a fellowship by the John D. the National Endowment for the Humanities. and Catherine T. the National Science Foundation. Yengoyan is Professor of Anthropology at the University of California. He has received grants from the Society of Fellows. Origin. and No Exit: Aboriginal Australians and the Historicizing of Interpretation and Theory. Harvard University. Davis. Hierarchy. – xi – . the MaxPlanck-Gesellschaft and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. Philippines. He has recently edited Natural Histories of Discourse with Greg Urban and has contributed to Regimes of Language edited by Paul Kroskrity. of Linguistics and of Psychology at the University of Chicago.


even though translation has been so central to data-gathering procedures. and individuals who learned these lingua francas and pidgins became the translators and interpreters. Still others.Introduction: Translation and Anthropology Paula Rubel and Abraham Rosman The central aim of the anthropological enterprise has always been to understand and comprehend a culture or cultures other than one’s own. Since its inception as a discipline and even in the “prehistory” of anthropology. ideas and meanings from one culture to another. Translation is central to “writing about culture”. On the other side are those who emphasize the humanistic face of the field. who focus on achieving understanding of another culture. which usually involves analytical concepts. sampling and quantification. used in the first instance. and later as a social science. and to the search for meanings and understandings. There are those who feel that anthropology is a social science. were soon replaced by lingua francas and pidgins. curiously. The European explorers and travelers to Asia and later the New World were always being confronted with the problem of understanding the people whom they were encountering. and the European public at large. whose methodology. translation of course –1– . think it can only be achieved by “total immersion” and empathy. In its broadest sense. One of the reasons for this has been the ongoing internal dialogue about the nature of the discipline. This inevitably involves either the translation of words. and the interpreters of their very differing ways of life. must be spelled out in detail. These pioneers in cross-cultural communication not only brought back the words of the newly encountered people but also became the translators and communicators of all kinds of information about these people. for European intellectuals. With the development of anthropology as a formal academic discipline in the mid-nineteenth century. translation has played a singularly important role. the role that translation has played in anthropology has not been systematically addressed by practitioners. They were also the individuals who were the basis for the conceptions which the Others had of Europeans. However. which is the goal of anthropology. translation means cross-cultural understanding. with the emphasis on science. Gesture and sign language. and who feel that the way to do fieldwork cannot be taught. or the translation to a set of analytical concepts.

the founding father of professional anthropology in the United States. Lewis Henry Morgan and Johann Bachofen remained in their offices and libraries at home. Rubel and Abraham Rosman continued to play a significant role. who were very different from themselves. There was a brief note about transcription at the beginning of the work entitled Explanation of Alphabet Used in Rendering Indian Sounds (Boas 1921: 47). the sources of this data were not questioned. At this point in time. In the training of his students he emphasized the necessity of learning the native language.Paula G. the anthropologists of the time were not concerned with questions of translation but only with the information itself. whether it was based on actual observations or casual conversations. Even when anthropologists themselves began to do fieldwork and gather ethnographic data at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century. Boas recognized that the languages of the New World were organized in a totally different manner than European languages and Latin. or any evaluation of this information in terms of how it was collected. however. with the Kwakiutl version of the text transcribed in phonetics on the bottom half of the page and the English translation on the top half. Their descriptions of the ways of life of the people they were encountering were being published in the various professional journals and monographs. while they theorized about the development of human society and the evolution of culture. nor was there concern with. before knowledge of them was lost. field methodology and the role translation would play in the data-gathering enterprise were not really addressed. He sent his Columbia University students to various American Indian tribes. travelers. emphasized the importance of linguistics and the central role that language played in culture. which were established during this period. a speaker of the –2– . Translation was the modus vivendi. Though he did not deal with translation in general. The students were to collect information about the various aspects of a culture by recording texts in the native language. The degree of expertise of these Europeans in the local languages or whether they used interpreters. Such differences in grammatical categories are central to problems of translation. traders and colonial government officials. he did not deal with the question of translation. and the ways in which it could be used to buttress the evolutionary schemas and theories which they were hypothesizing. which languages were used. in the two-volume Ethnology of the Kwakiutl. These were the individuals who were in first-hand contact with the “primitive peoples”. for example. The fact that grammatically. But their theories depended upon ethnographic information collected by missionaries. anthropologists such as Edward Tylor. At this point in time. Though Boas. who was doing the translations and what were the methods used. and who these interpreters were. This was to record valuable linguistic information about these languages. using phonetic transcription. was also not considered. whose languages were in danger of disappearing because of the shift to the use of English. He himself published the results of his research with the Kwakiutl in the form of texts as.

but they did not formally consider translation’s impact on their work or their theorizing. the authors of Ethnographic Research: A Guide to General Conduct. is also deemed essential. word for word of each statement” (Malinowski 1961 [1922]: 23–4). whether he saw the action himself. Cultural meanings and –3– . though. – always considered it important to learn the language or languages being used in the areas in which they worked. . . such a central part of the search for meaning.” (1961 [1922]: 3). requires some systematic understanding of it [the local language] and an accurate transcription. In addition. robbed the text of all its significant characteristics – rubbed off all its points .Introduction: Translation and Anthropology Kwakiutl language indicates how he knows about an action a particular individual is performing. Evans-Pritchard. while the speaker of English does not. the results of direct observation and of native statements and interpretations. learning the lingua franca of the wider area. “. . During the postwar period in America and Britain – despite the turn in interest toward symbolic and later interpretive anthropology with its primary focus on cultural understandings – translation. a text devoted to an explication of research methods written for British social anthropologists. was never a subject of discussion and seems to have been of minimal importance. be it a pidgin or Creole. By and large. in any case would have to be learned) one must make one’s own phonemic one. note that fieldwork “. . “. on the one hand. lingua francas. using a recognized system like the International Phonetic Alphabet” (Tonkin in Ellen 1984: 181). in order to understand the nature of the local culture and its meanings. Malinowski. They did long periods of intensive fieldwork during which translation was constantly involved. . The same point can be made with respect to structuralism. interpreters or the languages in use by the hegemonic colonial governments. surely plays a role in the translation of Kwakiutl to English or English to Kwakiutl. was the first anthropologist to systematically address the topic of the procedures which one should use to conduct fieldwork. In the absence of a local writing system (which. in his Introduction to Argonauts of the Western Pacific. More recently. et al. Acquiring the local language was essential since it was to be used as the “instrument of inquiry”. or heard about it from someone else. anthropologists trained during the period of the ascendancy of British social anthropology and the functionalist paradigm – such as Radcliffe-Brown. . . Malinowski noted the necessity of drawing a line between. He recognized the importance of acquiring a knowledge of the native language to use it as an instrument of inquiry. as he noted. at last I found myself writing exclusively in that language [Kiriwinian]. . . Shapera. They recognized that it was important to use the languages spoken locally and not pidgins. Fortes. and on the other hand the insights of the author . He talked about the way in which he himself shifted from taking notes in translation which. He noted that “pidgin English” was a very imperfect instrument for gaining information. . Leach. rapidly taking note.

The phonetic recording of the material in the native language is essential. since the data being analyzed were the products of translation. Thus. appreciating and describing another culture (Clifford 1997). which Malinowski used.Paula G. the analysis of the data and the writing of the ethnographic text. Field assistants or interpreters may need to be used at first. Rubel and Abraham Rosman understandings were significant for the structuralist enterprise. from fieldwork and data gathering to the production of the ethnographic text. Is translation from one culture to another possible and if so under what conditions? Can an anthropological researcher control another language adequately enough to carry out a translation? How should a researcher deal with the presence of class dialects. Postmodernism has been the subject of continuing debate and controversy among American cultural anthropologists. He supports the idea embodied in the crucial term traduttore tradittore. cultural anthropology is still going through a period of assessment and the rethinking of its goals. which was also important in the postwar era. Data that the fieldworker records. that is “The translator is a traitor”. which we –4– . but often this is not the procedure used. but this has not been the case. one which contains more of the original or source language or one which focuses on the target language and the reader’s understanding? What is the relationship between translation and the conceptual framework of anthropology? At the outset we should explore where translation fits in terms of what anthropologists do during fieldwork. and it is their translations upon which the anthropologist relies. Clifford in a recent work finally confronts the issue of translation. procedures and raison d’être. as his field notes reveal. Since cultural understanding is based on the premise that translation is possible. multilingualism and special-outsider language use? What constitutes an acceptable translation. going to do fieldwork in a culture foreign to their own. etc. what people recount to him or her. – soon after or in a procedure which combines both. James Clifford and other postmodernists have forced us to reconsider the anthropological enterprise. yet translation issues were never directly confronted by structuralists. usually try to ascertain which language or languages are spoken in the area of their interest and to begin to learn these before they leave their home base or immediately upon arriving at the field site. translation and all its aspects should be a primary focus in this discussion. translation is and must be a central concern. In the United States. this is an excellent time to consider a series of issues arising from the fact that for anthropology. Anthropologists. German. How does one approximate as closely as possible the original words and ideas of the culture being studied in the translation? Glossing and contextualizing is one of the methods used. He notes further that one should have an appreciation of the reality of what is missed and what is distorted in the very act of understanding. words associated with rituals or conversations and observations may initially be written in the native language to be translated into their own language – English. We might call this translation in the first instance.

Translation Studies. The question of the fit between the cultural understandings of one group and the level of analytical constructs is a very important issue. The development of analytical concepts in anthropology was based upon the premise of cross-cultural similarities at a higher analytical level than the generalizations formed about a single culture. some see these analytical concepts as emanating from the hegemonic West to be imposed upon the Third World Others compromising the specificity of their cultural concepts. some postmodernist anthropologists publish their ethnographic material in very self-reflexive accounts. after doing their translations from the source language. the translation is in terms of the analytical concepts developed in anthropology. but also with the problems associated with translating texts. More importantly. At this level of generalization. Taking the postmodern message of subjectivity to heart. as it is imprinted on the translation. and the understandings of the other society which they themselves gained. may offer some assistance to anthropologists confronting similar problems in their own work. Though translation in anthropology clearly involves a more complex procedure than literary translation. These varied in terms of the degree to which translations were oriented toward the target language or to the source language. there were different translation paradigms. What kind of connection should there be between the original text and the translation? Is the role of the translator. –5– . precisely because they feel that analytical concepts do not cognitively resonate sufficiently with the meanings of the particular culture they have studied. which permit the possibility of considering cross-cultural similarities if such are relevant. George Hunt. which anthropologists publish today. The ethnographic texts. which describe what happened to them in the field. some of the individuality and specificity of cultural phenomena which translation has revealed “falls by the wayside”. Other anthropologists. parallel to the role of the anthropologist as the interpreter of a culture not his own (though some anthropologists today study their own cultures). Clifford has made us very aware of the constructed nature of the ethnographic text and the various messages such texts convey. They usually do not deal with the question of translation. Only Boas frequently did publish texts in the same form as they were received from his primary field assistant. The work of translation specialists has revealed that at different historic periods in the Western world. hermeneutic focus on how the self constructs understandings of the Other. This emphasizes the humanistic.Introduction: Translation and Anthropology will discuss later in greater detail. chose to examine their data in terms of reoccurring patterns of behavior and ideas and present their understandings of the culture in a series of generalizations. This last step is one which some younger American anthropologists today do not wish to take. At this level. never consist of the data exactly as collected in the field. which has recently emerged in the United States as a distinct discipline dealing not only with the historical and cultural context of translation.

undertaken in the service of power and in its positive aspect can help in the evolution of a literature and a society” (Basnett in Venuti 1995: vii). The values of the local culture are a central aspect of most of the cultural phenomena which anthropologists try to describe. seen as the uprooting and transplanting of the fragile meanings of the source language. expressive of thought and meanings where meanings refer to an empirical reality or encompass a pragmatic situation. Cultural differences are emphasized and translation is seen as coming to terms with “Otherness” by “resistive” or “foreignizing” translations which emphasize the difference and the foreignness of the text. . readers in domestic terms that have been defamiliarized to some extent” (Venuti 1998: 5) These models clearly reveal the ideological implications of translation. that in turn destabilize universalist theoretical prescriptions on the translation process” (Cronin 1996: 4). There are those who see translation as a natural act. Rewriting is manipulation. which sees it as a mode of communication of objective information. hegemony and cultural dominance are often said to be reflected in translations. and these may differ from and be in conflict with the values of the target culture. . The foreignized translation is one that engages “. at first. especially those which were done during the colonial period. The translation of foreign texts may also reflect the ideological and political agendas of the target culture. The instrumental concept of language. As Cronin notes. being the basis for the intercultural communication which has always characterized human existence. How to make that difference comprehensible to audiences is the major question at issue. How does one preserve the cultural values of the source language in the translation into the target language. is unnatural. consisting of thought and meanings. Rubel and Abraham Rosman Translation theory rests on two different assumptions about language use. It is clear that the translations done by anthropologists cannot help but have ideological implications. The values of the culture of the source language may be different from those of the target language and this difference must be dealt with in any kind of translation. to be disparate languages and cultures. Translating is seen as a “traitorous act”. which is usually the aim of the translation. there is the view that translation. “Translation relationships between minority and majority languages are rarely divorced from issues of power and identity.Paula G. These features are also said to be present in translations. This approach emphasizes the commonality and universality of human experience and the similarities in what appear. Hierarchy. which are being done now in the postcolonial period. The hermeneutic concept of language emphasizes interpretation. where the latter shape reality and the interpretation of creative values is privileged (Venuti 2000: 5). In contrast. “All rewritings. –6– . Competing models of translation have also developed. whatever their intention reflect a certain ideology and a poetics and as such manipulate literature to function in a society in a given way. one of the features which translation-studies specialists have strongly emphasized. As Basnett notes.

Introduction: Translation and Anthropology What constitutes “fidelity” to the original text? Walter Benjamin. Foreignizing a text means that one must disrupt the cultural codes of the target language in the course of the translation. levels and categories of language and textuality. However. to what extent any language may be transformed” (Benjamin in Venuti 2000: 22). notes that “The task of the translator consists of finding that intended effect [intention] into which he is translating. pitted against hegemonic English language nations and the unequal cultural exchanges in which they engage their global others” (Venuti 1995: 20). This direction. This approach would seem to be compatible with the goals of anthropology. He must expand and deepen his language by means of the foreign language. instead of allowing his language to be powerfully affected by the foreign tongue. in his famous essay entitled “The Task of the Translator”. capable of reduction to precisely defined units. and others. that all cultures are unique and different and that cultural translation is a difficult if not impossible task but that cultural translation into a Western language should be attempted since cross-cultural understanding is an important goal. . foreign texts are seen as entities with invariants. . Foreignizing translation is a way of rectifying the power imbalance by allowing the voice of these latter nations to be heard in their own terms. notions of cultural and linguistic relativity began to come to the fore. led to the postmodernist position. The position of Venuti. thought that a translation could move in either of two directions: either the author is brought to the language of the reader or the reader is carried to the language of the author. . –7– . It is not generally realized to what extent this is possible. restrain the ethnocentric violence of translation and is an intervention . there is actual translation (Venuti 2000: 60). which produces in it the echo of the original” (Benjamin 1923 in Venuti 2000). Benjamin is seen by translation specialists as espousing what is referred to as “foreignizing translation”. in anthropology. is that in this way translation has served the global purposes of the Western modernized industrial nations. when the reader is forced from his linguistic habits and obligations to move within those of the author. Benjamin sees the basic error of the translator as preserving the state “. The nineteenth-century German theorist Schleiermacher. Moving in the direction of the reader is referred to as the domestication of translation. In the latter case. Given this perspective. Minoritizing translation which relies on discursive heterogeneity contrasts with fluency which is assimilationist. at the expense of the subaltern nations and peoples around the world. a translation constituted the continued life of the original. . according to Venuti (1998: 12) In the 1970s in the United States. . discussed above. who wrote “On the Different Methods of Translating” in 1813. there are also some who support the position that at some level of generalization there are universals of language and culture. in which his own language happens to be. This method seeks to “. To him. .

the message in the receptor language should match as closely as possible the different elements of the source language. . inter-lingual translation – translation proper. . How close can any translation come to the original text or statement? Nida notes that “Since no two languages are identical either in meanings given to corresponding symbols.Paula G. he is seen as being in the camp of those who advocate the “domestication” of –8– . represented as a woman. Therefore. Clearly. the word is masculine and therefore represented as a man (Jakobson 1959 in Venuti 2000: 117). or in ways in which such symbols are arranged in phrases and sentences. in his discussion of inanimate nouns which are personified by gender. manner of thought. the interpretation of verbal signs by means of some other language. the process of translation must involve a certain degree of interpretation on the part of the translator. no fully exact translation . . constant comparison of the two is necessary to determine accuracy and correspondence. the impact may be reasonably close to the original but no identity in detail” (Nida 1964 in Venuti 2000: 126). the meaning of a linguistic sign is its translation into some further alternative sign. and points out that “. It should have the feel of the original. noting that the translation should be characterized by “naturalness of expression” in the translation and that it should relate to the culture of the “receptor”. . Rubel and Abraham Rosman Jakobson. especially one which is more fully developed ”(Jakobson 1959 in Venuti 2000). In Russian. as did Boas before him. whose research has had significance for both linguists and anthropologists. the word death is feminine. which must be provided. and make as close an approximation as possible. As Nida describes it. that the grammatical pattern of a language determines those aspects of experience which must be expressed and that translations often require supplementary information since languages are different in what they must convey. it stands to reason that there can be no absolute correspondence between languages . But Nida also attends to the needs of the reader. This would seem to be a prescription which most anthropologists should follow in their own fieldwork. distinctions of this sort are significant when one does any type of translation. and inter-semiotic translation – the interpretation of verbal signs by signs of a non-verbal sign system. and in what they may convey (Jakobson 1959 in Venuti 2000: 114). while in German. The cultural context of the translation must always be presented. Phillips’ method of back translation in which equivalencies are constantly checked is one way to achieve as exact a correspondence as possible. Jakobson distinguishes between intra-lingual translation – the rewording or interpretation of verbal signs by other signs of the same language. . For this reason. One should identify with the person in the source language. takes his perspective from Pierce. . and means of expression. the semiotician. One must reproduce as literally and meaningfully the form and content of the original. He cites an excellent example of the kind of supplementary information. A good translation should fulfil the same purpose in the new language as the original did in the source language. He recognized. understand his or her customs.

Fluency is the dominant idea for the English. and should have the same effect upon the receiving audience as the original had on its audience (Nida in Venuti 2000: 134). meaning that the translation must be characterized by easy readability. at the same time it must conform to and be comprehensible in the receptor language and culture. No concessions should be made to make the description more acceptable and palatable to the target audience except for intelligibility. Since domesticating the text is said to exclude and conceal the cultural and social –9– . Though the equivalence should be source-oriented. Nida’s theories are based on a transcendental concept of humanity as an essence unchanged by time and space. Venuti sees people like Nida as emphasizing semantic unity while those who emphasize foreignization stress discontinuities and the diversity of cultural and linguistic formations. The differences of the foreign text are to be stressed. translation being seen as the “. Nida goes into details in his volume. since “that which unites mankind is greater than that which divides. This is what has been referred to above as glossing. hence even in cases of very disparate languages and cultures there is a basis for communication” (Nida in Venuti 2000: 24). In Nida’s eyes. . The solution. the translation must make sense and convey the spirit and manner of the original. rather than colloquial and archaic language though the translator may see the latter as more suitable in conveying the meanings and genre of the original. The Science of Translation. is informed by missionary values since he developed his science of translation with the express purpose of being used by missionaries in their task of translating biblical and religious texts for use by people speaking languages in remote parts of the world. regarding the methods the translator should use to get the closest approximation of the source language. including using footnotes to illuminate cultural differences when close approximations cannot be found.Introduction: Translation and Anthropology translation. However. whimsy. and the need to convey the sarcasm. the goal is to present the different aspects of the culture or society being examined in a “translation” which is as true to the original as possible. A foreignized translation is one which reflects and emphasizes the cultural differences between source and target languages. is some sort of dynamic equivalence that balances both concerns. being sensitive to the style of the original. as he sees it. in general. Different societies have different traditions regarding translation. He also talks about problems of translating the emotional content of the original. In anthropology. and emotive elements of meaning of the original (Nida in Venuti 2000: 139–40). making the translator and the conditions under which the translation was made invisible. violent rewriting of the foreign text” (Venuti 1995: 24). irony. The importance of immediate intelligibility is associated with the purely instrumental use of language and the emphasis on facts (Venuti 1995: 1–5). . Venuti also talks about “the illusion of transparency”. one must keep in mind that Nida’s work. This means that there is a preference for the use of current English usage in translation.

It is therefore usually necessary to supply supplementary information. . the inherent indeterminacy of language. what we called glossing above. Quine suggests that one “. When a text is retranslated at a latter period in time. anthropologists need to deal with these different aspects of translation and to concern themselves with which kind of balance should be achieved in the work that they do. Irreducible differences in language and culture. dominated and limited the translator’s options (Venuti 1995: 810). incompatibilities will always be present which must be dealt with by additional discussion and contextualization. Translation is doomed to inadequacy because of irreducible differences not only between languages and cultures. The “canonization of fluency in English language translations”. is that the foreign text depends upon its own culture for intelligibility. Clearly. Meaning itself is seen as a “. but within them as well. developed during the early modern period. steep oneself in the language disdainful of English parallels to speak it like a native.Paula G. However. One must realize in the target language the textual relations of the source language with no breach of the target language’s basic linguistic system. Rubel and Abraham Rosman conditions of the original text to provide the illusion of transparency and immediate intelligibility. are now seen as complicating factors in translation (Venuti 2000: 219). as well as the unavoidable instability of the signifying process. . which emphasizes cultural relativity. . Venuti sees the foreign text itself as the site of “many different semantic possibilities” which any one translation only fixes in a provisional sense. it frequently differs from the first translation because of the changes in the historical and cultural context. Interestingly. However. eventually becoming like a bilingual (Quine 1959 in Venuti 2000: 108). Other translation specialists talk about the need to seek functional equivalence even if one must make explicit in the target language what is implicit in the source language (Levy in Venuti 2000: 167). . This is especially necessary when the source language and its culture have no exact linguistic and cultural equivalent in the target language. annotations and the like to anthropological translations. not an unchanging unified essence” (Venuti 1995: 18). revived “. . are seen as problems which must be overcome if one is to do a translation. The turn toward thinking. seeks to match [the] polyvalences or plurivocatives or [the] – 10 – . The view that language itself is indeterminate and the signifying process unstable would seem to preclude the possibility of any kind of adequate translation. . An important point raised. This is what is referred to as glossing. the theme of untranslatability in translation theory” (Venuti 2000: 218). many subscribe to the counter-argument. The polysemy of languages and the heterogeneous and diverse nature of linguistic and cultural materials which “ destabilize signification” and make meaning plural and divided. plural and contingent relation. which relates more directly to translations by anthropologists. . holding that translation is possible if it “. this is referred to as “the ethnocentric violence of translation”. .

As Venuti notes. in the recording of information. To Venuti. In this respect. The inadequacies of the translation must be dealt with in an accompanying commentary. In some ways. Venuti’s remarks parallel the position of most anthropologists. Synonymy is not necessarily possible. However. which a translation embodies. by reminding the reader of the gains and losses in the translation process and the unbridgeable gaps between cultures” (Venuti 1995: 305). A translated text should be the site at which a different culture emerges. The question at issue is how to achieve this balance. it is a matter of the balance or trade-off between the need to be comprehensible to the particular readership of the text and the need to convey as much of the original as is possible. . In the final analysis. which is oriented toward the professional anthropologist. whose ideas we have detailed above. “Translation is a process that involves looking for similarities between language and culture – particularly similar messages and formal techniques – but it does this because it is constantly confronting dissimilarities. in the final analysis. The transformations. where a reader gets a glimpse of a cultural other and resistency. The concerns of anthropologists regarding translation are similar to many of the concerns of translation specialists. It can never and should never aim to remove these dissimilarities entirely. Where does translation in anthropology stand in this ongoing dialogue in Translation Studies? Certainly. The nature of translation must be shifted to emphasize the resistance of the latter to the domination of the former. . and the formerly subjugated non-Western world. professional or nonprofessional. [resisting the] constraints of the translating language and interrogates the structure of the foreign text” (Lewis in Venuti 2000: 218). On the other hand.Introduction: Translation and Anthropology expressive stress of the original . but a form of translation can still take place. the text must be comprehensible to the readership of that text. As Frawley notes. negotiate the linguistic and cultural differences between the source language and culture and that of the target audience for the translation. syntactic and discursive levels. Translation is a re-codification. there are many features of translation in anthropology which are unique. Translation – 11 – . A translation strategy based on an aesthetic of discontinuity can best preserve that difference. Translations should. should take place on the semantic. anthropology tries to preserve as much as possible of the source culture and language (the object of investigation) in the “translation” or ethnography. that otherness. “Translation when it occurs has to move whatever meanings it captures from the original into a framework that tends to impose a different set of discursive relations and a different construction of reality” (Frawley in Venuti 2000: 268). writing a popular version of one’s ethnographic text is itself a translation from the ethnographic text. This begins in the field. a transfer of codes. translation has become a battleground between the hegemonic forces – the target culture and language. and continues in the analysis of data and in decisions as to the nature of the ethnographic text which will be produced..

The translation of kinship terminology as it relates to the finite number of variations in the sphere of kinship is explored by Rosman and Rubel in Chapter 11. most linguists have not been concerned with the relationship and implications of their theoretical ideas to the translation of culture. The translation of the “meanings” of a culture into analytical concepts for the purpose of cross-cultural comparison has no equivalent in literary translation. usually the source language dominates (Werner and Campbell 1970: 398–9). that is the features of human existence. In – 12 – . will “translate” what has been found on the local level into a series of analytical concepts which will then enable comparison with other societies. Linguistic theories regarding the nature and characteristics of language. however. etc. In addition to the ethnography as the translation of a culture in order to understand it. Rubel and Abraham Rosman within the context of fieldwork. which combines linguistic determinism with linguistic relativity. still an important concern for many anthropologists today. Werner and Campbell talk about symmetrical or decentered translation which aims at both “. . One might call these “natural normativities”. and the writing of the ethnographic text parallel only in part the translation of literary texts. meaning its translation into some Western language. The development of analytical categories has been based upon this important premise of a finite number of possibilities. is in clear opposition to Chomsky’s ideas of the universality of mental structures pertaining to language. who sees societies as having similarities as well as differences. . the subsequent analysis of the field material to gain understanding of the meanings and behaviors of a people other than one’s own. which are universal. Unfortunately. which we have noted above. moulding our perceptions of the universe around us” (Werner and Campbell 1970: 398). discussed above. social organization. there is another kind of translation which ethnographers perform as we have noted above. The ethnographer. Symmetrical or decentered translation would seem to be similar to Nida’s idea of dynamic equivalence. asserts that human beings speaking different languages do not live in the same ‘real’ world with different labels attached: they live in different worlds – language itself acts as a filter on reality. and those of which there are only a finite number of possible permutations (Silverstein in Chapter 3). . loyalty of meaning and equal familiarity and colloquialness in each language which [to them] contrasts with asymmetrical or unicentered translation. The fact that translations are possible would seem to negate the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis and support the theory of Chomskian universals. Translation relates the local and particular to the universal or semi-universal by relating the local or the source culture to a set of analytical concepts. . in which loyalty to one language. The development of analytical concepts presumes that there is a limited number of natural possibilities when it comes to cultural categories like kinship. What has been referred to as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis “. This principle. are very relevant to the issue of translation.Paula G.

since it is part of the message being conveyed. clearly relate to translation and to the understanding of the intent of the words which are being translated. the performance aspect is also relevant to the translation. and must be translated. nor what the speaker is thinking when he or she speaks. sees all languages as formally similar in their deep structures. This data is important for the translation itself. In decentered translation. Behind this is the assumption that there is more similarity and less difference (in contrast to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis which assumes the opposite). affect may be visible and reveal intention. When the fieldworker records information from informants. The lexical fields provide the contexts within which one searches for equivalencies. Some raise the question of whether translation can deal with psychological states and issues of affect. Finding coordinates does not mean exact translation. always involves intentionality. The translator not only crosses. it is essential for the translator to pay attention to the setting of the translation. When we translate words and their meanings. The translation of affect and psychological states. focus on the source language characterizes many literary translations. we are ascribing intention to a speaker. Greeks don’t know what is in another’s head. yet they attribute intentionality to individuals. a set of equivalent or near-equivalent sentences of the source language is seen as corresponding to a similar set of sentences in the target language. Hence.Introduction: Translation and Anthropology contrast. but can be said to violate boundaries and the intimacy of the cultural setting within which he or she is working. as we noted above. Affect and emotions. Affect and intentionality are culturally specific. The way in which these operate and are conceptualized in particular societies. factors such as affect may reveal intentions which may be different from the words themselves. The translator must try to do this inter-culturally as well as intraculturally. when people say or write something. Intention may be intuited from external factors. but rather searching for the best approximation. which may sometimes not be included or indicated in the translation. Cultural intimacy – 13 – . Even intra-culturally. But we must pay attention to how we translate the thinking and intent of the speaker of those words. Underlying this conceptualization of symmetrical equivalence is Chomsky’s transformational theory which. making the source and target languages coordinate (Werner and Campbell 1970: 402). What people say or write. In oral presentation. which are based on cultural conventions. Yet should this not be part of the translation? In the context of anthropological fieldwork. which is impossible. as Herzfeld notes in Chapter 4. which may subsequently be translated. In the translation of oral material associated with ritual. is another issue which must be considered. The translation should capture what the words were intended to mean. the intention may not be immediately comprehensible. constitute the setting or context of the material. Sometimes the translation of the words themselves may not immediately reveal intention. in general. the thinking of the individual.

Translations are negotiations between that local experience and the target language – the kind of dynamic equivalence referred to above. which is divined in other ways. gives an example of Islamic jurists and their theories of translation. and that one can analyze words though they lack certainty. categories of language which are inter-translatable. as we have noted above. Need one translation be promoted over others or is a diversity of translations desirable? The anthropologist. How do local processes of translation deal with foreign “things” and “domesticate” or translate them? What does it mean to translate locally (Keane in Chapter 6)? How do local people incorporate ideas and material objects which come from the outside? This is also a kind of translation. and this difference must be considered. Differing translations at different points in time reflect different style and ideas about translation. Rubel and Abraham Rosman is what is goes on “inside” a cultural group. anthropologist or not. it can be said to create boundaries. Translation can also be seen as a betrayal since it can be said to violate the cultural intimacy of the “inside” (Herzfeld in Chapter 4). stealing words is the sign of the true Cretan man. Translation can also be said to constitute a bridge to the target audience. It depends on the meanings of information and knowledge and the local notion of possession (Keane in Chapter 6). The words that are used are not representative of intention. may contrast with or even violate the folk theories of the source language and culture. This involves – 14 – . in Chapter 7. This distinction must be considered in any translation. one subjects the words and the expressions of language A in a text to grammatical analysis and one then finds in language B a grammatical analysis which conforms to the grammar in language A. Messick. on the other hand. There is another point of view which says that words do tell intentions. Does translation constitute “stealing words”? What does the actual process of translation involve? According to views expressed at the conference by Silverstein. Ideas about meaning are different from one culture to another and one must understand them in their own terms.Paula G. These clearly relate to local or folk theories about meanings or what some refer to as folk psychology. that is. as opposed to what is external. We may raise the question of whether the notions of translation of the translator. in particular. It is intention not words that count to them. This linguistics project is based on a universal grammar and specific grammatical structures. recognizes that there are always local or folk theories and ideas about translation. According to Herzfeld. In this time of “globalization”. It is here that dialects may operate in contrast to the “official” or national language. Though translation crosses boundaries. When there are a diversity of “translations” the question arises regarding which of several translations should be “the” translation. but not in others. How does translation relate to “stealing words”? Stealing words has significant meanings in some cultural settings. Political factors may be involved in the decision about which translation is “the translation”. this is a significant process which needs to be investigated.

including their counterintuitive aspects and inconsistencies. but translation is the communication of cultural knowledge. Jones. understanding is a requisite for good translation. Alternatively. This universal cognitive structure would require a kind of natural meta-language. is translation where sense-for-sense or category equivalents are sought (Silverstein). with all that they encompass. and translation which is transduction. and are sociocentric – that is. There are areas of grammar where this can be done (Silverstein). affect. transduction. – 15 – . which are systems or categories of differentiation. considers the way in which the Spanish tried to translate ideas about the Trinity and the difficulties encountered. Genre relates to intentionality. Silverstein makes the point that the problem of translation is cultural not individual. transforming as well as crossing boundaries (Silverstein). a shared or implicitly shared set of cultural beliefs. The individual mind operates in a cultural context. and motivation which we have discussed above. Every act of translation is a social act. “What does the native term do” (Jones)? This approach has been a standard anthropological technique. What does a belief do. The presence of a range of differences is what makes translation a matter of judgment or guess. As we noted above. Comparative grammar anchors the translation. as we noted above. The translator or interpreter himself or herself may be said to constitute a boundary or border (Robinson). by and large. sees belief as a relational entity. be translated? Saler. Translation breaks down genre. The latter. one could translate the native term into an abstract syntactic primitive relating to the kind of universal syntactic cognitive structure we have discussed above. A text has a context. Translating the idea of the virgin birth is the same sort of problem. how does it function in cognitive and social settings? According to Jones. one should use the native term and show how it works in their conceptual economy. and deal with its “doxastic” surround (Jones). Can belief systems. How to translate genre forms and preserve the various aspects of genre which are so significant to form is an important question. One must also distinguish between translation which is word for word. used not only for belief systems. However. in which comparative grammar or structural equivalents anchor the translation. involving social relationships. in Chapter 8 of this volume. part of a social organization and structure of authority (Silverstein). it is not simply propositional knowledge ascribed to the individual mind which is involved. Translation is a matter of comparing systems of contextualization of one language and culture with systems of contextualization of another. “stereotypic knowledge”. Translation also separates what is self and what is other. Therefore when we translate. in Chapter 2.Introduction: Translation and Anthropology structural equivalence. (Does the development of pidgins relate to this?) Clearly this relates to the discussion above regarding use of analytical concepts at successively higher levels of abstraction. translation bridges boundaries and enables understanding across boundaries.

newer translations or Church texts such as the Bible have been done over time and this belies the idea that there is a fixity of religious beliefs (Blier). However. mediators or bridges in the colonial situation. but they are also seen as outsiders or marginals. The translator is in a sense a trickster: he or she can clarify or obfuscate. However. The position of the translator in a particular culture needs to be ascertained historically. To what extent can the public accept the provisionality of the anthropologist’s account? Some say they can (Herzfeld at the conference). To which side does her or she hold allegiance? He or she may be a person of greater or lesser authority (Kapchan). The public needs to be educated about the provisional nature of anthropological categories. with all its “imperfections”. that it catches all the meanings and nuances of the original. those local people who were able to learn the language of the colonial power themselves came to be in powerful positions as a consequence of their being middlemen. a descriptive ethnography. as noted earlier in this introduction (Ortiz). some product. status and identity of the translator is also an issue. Anthropologists are listeners who are “translating” the local culture. As is the case for all texts. that is. In colonial situations. Rubel and Abraham Rosman In the situations in which the anthropologist usually works. or anthropologists will not be taken seriously or listened to (Jones at the conference). and the way in which anthropologists “translate” native categories. Some say that the closure of knowledge is bad (Kapchan). The translator is a mediator between the local society and the outside world. the role. We may say that this is the best we can do at this time. which must involve glossing and contextualizing local concepts. What he or she produces is an ethnographic text. the anthropologist must present “some reading of the culture”. As the anthropologist gains in knowledge and understanding. There is a difference regarding this point if we are talking about the anthropological public or the general public. which may not have equivalents in the target language. the “translation” of the culture will be progressively more accurate. with their distortions. It seems unlikely that a translation can be perfect.Paula G. A perfect translation is a utopian dream – 16 – . which Kapchan in Chapter 5 describes as “conditional in its authority”. paralleling the storyteller’s performance of a classical Arabic text. This is necessary in order to refute the Native American critique that we are not translating “their categories” but imposing our own categories. we all recognize that newer thinking and developments in the field may require us to revisit that reading and improve it in the light of new developments at some future date. Others see this provisionality as undercutting anthropology as a discipline (Jones at the conference). and there must be some closure. For example. a powerful critique. the anthropologist’s text is conditional in nature. the best account or “translation of the culture” for this time (Yengoyan at the conference). There are different norms in regard to the position of the translator in different societies. upon them and other native peoples. creating a picture of it for the outside world.

be set up in block form separate from the ongoing text or is some other method more clearly a “translation” of the quote? When anthropologists began to deal with written texts. one should acquire facility in the languages being used and the nature of the code switching being done and the significance of the language shifting present. while learning the standard language was seen as liberating. As noted earlier. Transcription creates an artifact from an oral event. diglossia is operative. But with growing nationalism. Such asymmetrical stratification of languages is universal. as it was known earlier. The power dimension and power differentials were clearly operative throughout this process. into the major language and the signifier of Haitian nationalism and independence. Examining ethnographies will reveal that though anthropologists frequently present exact quotes which are translations. Translated native literature often becomes a commodity. The anthropologist must also be concerned with the way in which quotations appear in the ethnographic text itself. and this can only be done by phonological transcription (Silverstein). in particular. for example. Neomelanesian or. Translation in such a situation becomes a problem of translating the multilingual “mix” people are using and the significance of language shifting as it occurs. In Papua New Guinea. but rather to deceive. the writing down of native oral literature was an important task. Even intra-lingual communication itself is not perfect. they must use the method of glossing and contextualizing words in order to fully understand what those quotes mean (Messick). The poorer classes speak Haitian Creole. the minor language. In field situations such as these. Anthropologists doing fieldwork in diglossic situations have to make decisions regarding which language they will use in their fieldwork. The degree of facility in. – 17 – . there has been a movement to make Creole. Should they. Boas himself was concerned with the transcription of oral texts and the use of phonetics to accomplish that task. Multilingualism was a significant feature of Papua New Guinea society. In earlier times. some anthropologists would do their research in Pidgin or a local lingua franca. We know this empirically. while the upper classes speak French. In many societies. or knowledge of the local language on the part of the anthropologist can often be ascertained from the ethnography. Working with African-Americans. learning the native language only to a minimal degree. In many societies such as Haiti.Introduction: Translation and Anthropology (Jones). The speaker’s intention may be not to be understood. In anthropology. transliteration and transcription became issues of concern. Pidgin English or Police Motu were lingua francas used by people speaking many different frequently nonintelligible local languages. It is of significance not only when one works with a local group with only an oral tradition. use of the localized language alone was often seen as hindering an upwardly mobile individual. often related to class and upward mobility. one has the same problem in representing Black English. the transcription and subsequent translation.

The conquest by the Western industrialized countries of much of the rest of the world. as Saler points out in his Chapter 8 in this volume. linguistics and literary interpretation. using certain modes of representation of the Other. How does translation deal with these different forms (Yengoyan)? One could say further that print culture reworks the notion of knowledge and discourse (Yengoyan). The first question posed is whether we translate at all. Anthropologists doing translations of oral performances must attend not only to the words of the ritual. and untranslated in the eyes of a particular group. Niranjana notes. These became facts which governed events in the colonies (Niranjana 1992: 3) To whom are we answerable when we do a translation? This is a matter of ethics as well as power differentials. As noted above.Paula G. . Visual conventions certainly will affect the way in which the reader responds to a translated text. and is a much discussed topic. translation always has political implications. but through discourses of philosophy. the practices of subjection implicit in the colonial enterprise operate not merely through the coercive machinery of the state. One such site is translation” (Niranjana 1992: 1–2). since they are considered “untranslatable” locally. There is a difference between what translation means locally and our ideas about what we should translate. the power differential was always an important factor in the nature of the translation. Often sacred rituals and spells must be kept secret. The colonized population had to be represented in a particular manner so as to justify colonial domination. If we do translate in such situations. Rubel and Abraham Rosman Oral. In the colonial context. it can be considered an act of betrayal. in Chapter 5. The action or performance aspect is equally important in providing meanings which are to be translated. . There are things which are “dangerous” to translate. for if the material is translated. and its subsequent control and domination. history. it might have deleterious effects. importantly involved the process of translation. An ethical position requires that the effects of a translation on local populations always be considered. written and printed texts are different modes of representation and need to be distinguished. the colonial ‘subject’ – constructed through technologies or practice of power/knowledge – is brought into being within multiple discourses and on multiple sites. anthropology. the performance aspect of the translation is a significant factor in determining receptor response. In Kapchan’s discussion of local translators who interpret classical Arabic texts in oral performances. The performativity aspect of a translation are also of some importance. The translator’s preface and notes must discuss the decisions which have been made regarding the modes of representation which the translator has chosen to use. as Said has noted. philology. within which many anthropologists worked. Translation. reinforced “hegemonic” versions of the colonized in which they acquired the status of representations or objects without history. “. The anthropologist must determine in particular situations – 18 – .

Introduction: Translation and Anthropology which cultural materials it is not ethical to translate. Some years ago an anthropologist doing fieldwork with the Cherokee in Oklahoma wrote an article in Current Anthropology, detailing the reasons why he did not publish the results of his research. He felt it was unethical to describe rituals which the Cherokee had revealed to him but considered to be sacred and not to be revealed to the outside world. Since what “they” mean by translation and what “we” mean by it may not be the same, translation may sometimes have difficult and unforeseen consequences. The ethical issue involves us in rethinking our own assumptions about our enterprise. We must consider what we do and why we do it and our assumption of our role as “translators” of the cultures and ways of life of others. We are mediators between two worlds, metaphorically like priests with the anthropologist having the sacerdotal authority of priests (Saler at the conference). Though translation always starts with a prescriptive approach to equivalence, the social context, the politics, whom the translation is being done for, why and how, as well as the translator’s relationship to those in the source and those in the target cultures, often determine the nature of the translation. Some Native Americans may resist translation, feeling that anthropologists “don’t translate but they impose” (Ortiz). Anthropologists are seen as interfering “(fucking around)” with people’s souls and with reality (Ortiz). One Native American expressed the feeling that even Native American anthropologists themselves are “torn apart” in the context of their anthropological research with their own people, in terms of what they do or do not reveal and translate. As anthropologists, we use particular concepts and words which are seen by non-anthropologists as jargon. The use of these concepts is seen as imposing categories upon the culture and way of life of the people, acting as a counter to the uniqueness of their culture, and serving to distort the encounter between the anthropologist and the native person. Some Native Americans in the Southwest have reached the point of refusing anthropologists permission to do research in their communities, even to the point of putting up signs that say “White man Keep Out”. In a curious way, although translation crosses boundaries it also creates barriers and antagonism. As we noted above, mistranslation is sometimes intentional, and falsification and mistranslation for political purposes sometimes occur. For example, Blier (at the conference) noted the fact the Freud, in his work on Michelangelo’s statue of Moses, did not discuss the horns on Moses’ head. These horns represent a deliberate and intentional mistranslation of “rays of light” from the Bible into horns, and was a way of demonizing Jews, in line with the general anti-Semitic attitude of the Catholic Church at that time. Obfuscation versus faithfulness is the issue here. Translation clearly involves dangers and difficulties for all who translate including anthropologists (Saler). One might pose the question, is faithfulness of translation always important? Are there situations where this axiom is not or should not be held to? – 19 –

Paula G. Rubel and Abraham Rosman In what ways may translations be critiqued? Some say that only translators themselves can critique translations. One could also say that only an ethnographer who has done fieldwork in the same society can criticize an anthropological translation. For literary translations, it is the translation itself into the target language which has priority. The style and poetics exhibited in the translation are usually the basis for critical judgments. In anthropology, those who translate oral ritual and mythic materials have debated whether prose or poetic form better reflects the essence of this material, but this is clearly not a major aspect of translation in anthropology. Making decisions about the acceptance of an ethnographic text as a good translation relate to the ethnographer’s knowledge of the language as well as to various other factors such as the anthropologist’s grasp of the internal logic of the system and its meaning. The categorizations and classifications found in particular cultures, as we have noted above, are significant and this is true of the concept of translation itself. Only recently has the term “translation” been reduced in the scope of its meaning in the Western World to refer only to the translation from one language to another. Earlier, during the Renaissance, for example, it had many more meanings, and a much fuller semiotic range. Included in that range of meanings was the use of the word to refer to the movement or translation of souls or the body to heaven and the movement of something from one place to another (Segal in Chapter 9). Architecture is also seen as a form of translation. This is understandable if one sees architecture and language as homologous structures (Blier). However, one must recognize that many subject matters which we now see as distinct and separate categories had not been recognized as separate domains earlier. For example, in the West, the category, “art”, crystallized in the seventeenth century as did that of “religion” (Saler). As we can see, we in the West have our own categories which have changed through time. We must always be aware that indigenous categories may frequently differ from our own and we should not simply impose our categories in our translations. In the field situation we must be aware of the possibility of this difference. For example, Navajo sand painting has now come to be considered art by the Western world. Among the Navajo, the sand painting and its method of construction is part of the curing ritual. It is a transitory phenomenon whose existence is not prolonged after the ritual is concluded. A comparison of our discussion of translation studies and that concerning translation and anthropology reveals that translation is conceived of differently disciplinarily. Many of the issues with which literary translation and the literary critiques of translation are concerned do not parallel issues of concern to anthropologists in their translations (Yengoyan). We mentioned above the discussion relating to whether Native American cultural materials should be translated into prose or poetic forms. The aesthetic form of the translation is one factor with which literary translators concern themselves more than anthropologists do in their – 20 –

Introduction: Translation and Anthropology translations. Though the particular genres which are used in anthropological translations, the style and voice, the losses and gains, as well as the nature of the transliteration if that is involved, all constitute problems with which anthropologists must deal (Keane, Yengoyan). In our discussion of the various contributions of Translation Studies, concern for and emphasis upon the “consumer” of the translation and his or her comprehension was seen as an important issue. In a way, it is not only translators but also consumers who produce meaning (Herzfeld at the conference). They bring their own background and sensibility to the comprehension of the translation, though the translator still has the primary role of constructing the meaning of the translation. It is he or she who, in the final analysis, controls what is put out to the consumer. The cultural biases, conscious or unconscious, are operative unless the translator controls for these in the production of the translation. The anthropologist, in the “translation” of the local culture, sometimes conveys a particular message, as for example Malinowski, whose “translation” of the Trobriand Islanders was intended to convey the message of the “prelogical savage” (Yengoyan). Other anthropologists like Mead had their own sense of translation. In some of her ethnologies, the translation presented was consumer-oriented, that is, intended for the general public. One might further argue that the particular theoretical framework, which the anthropologist brings to the field situation, including the meta-theory of anthropology, has an effect on the “translation” of the local culture which is being made. It determines what is held back, what is pushed, in terms of what the translator thinks the receiver should receive (Yengoyan). In an interesting way, during this postmodern period, James Clifford and others have become “translators” for the discipline of anthropology, examining and deconstructing what we do for non-anthropologists and academics at large. Literary critics act as translators in the same manner, “translating” for those who read their critiques. Clifford’s translations have brought about a rethinking and a fundamental reexamination of how we do anthropology. The Translation and Anthropology Conference brought together individuals from different disciplines. Besides anthropology, art history, translation studies, Native American literature, religion and French were represented. Being from different disciplines meant that the participants brought their different disciplinary dispositions and presuppositions, making us recognize a very basic aspect of translation since the participants sometimes had to do some “translation” across disciplinary lines during the course of the discussions.

– 21 –

Paula G. Rubel and Abraham Rosman

Boas, Franz. Ethnology of the Kwakiutl. Thirty-fifth Annual Report of the Bureau Of American Ethnology for the Years 1913–1914. Washington, D.C. Smithsonian Institution, 1921. Clifford, James. Routes: Travel and Translation in the late Twentieth Century. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997. Cronin, M. Translating Ireland: Translation, Languages and Cultures. Cork: Cork University Press, 1996. Ellen, R. F. Ethnographic Research: A Guide to General Conduct. New York: Academic Press, 1984, Malinowski, Bronislaw. Argonauts of the Western Pacific. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1961 [1922]. Niranjana, Tejaswini. Siting Translation: History, Post-Structuralism and the Colonial Contest. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992. Venuti, Lawrence. The Translator’s Invisibibility: A History of Translation. London and New York: Routledge, 1995. —— The Scandals of Translation: Towards and Ethics of Difference. London and New York: Routledge, 1998. Venuti, Lawrence (ed.). The Translation Studies Reader. London and New York: Routledge, 2000. Werner, Oswald and Donald T. Campbell. “Translating, Working Through Interpreters, and the Problem of Decentering.” in A Handbook of Method in Cultural Anthropology. Naroll, Raoul and Ronald Cohen (eds). New York: Columbia University Press, 1970.

– 22 –

Part I General Problems of Translation

Aram A. Yengoyan

– 24 –

cultural translations and linguistic translations differ in a number of ways. in our attempts toward comparison and what that meant. Aside from some similarities. Yengoyan Translations and the tensions in translation have always plagued anthropology. On this matter. be it in its scientific version or humanistic side. From Boas onward. The Americanists insisted that comparison and generalization were – 25 – . but in general. American historical anthropology stressed particularism which was closely connected to theories of relativism. and grammatical categories and distinctions – is usually more exacting in terms of rigor.Lyotard and Wittgenstein and Translation –1– Lyotard and Wittgenstein and the Question of Translation Aram A. Usually cultural translations have been done through a frame which either stresses differences or serves as a means in which the “other” is portrayed in categories which are understandable to a Western audience. with the persistent question of how cultural translations can be made without destroying the very subjects which we are attempting to convey. cultural translation (even linguistic translation) has seldom been directly addressed as an issue. family. The distinction between cultural and linguistic translation is blurred. lineage. etc. what linguists mean by semantics is hardly comparable to anthropological usage. Although traditional anthropological categories (such as kinship. cultural translations are less exacting and also less scientific. but also linguistics – as a discipline which covers phonological. not only do linguistic translations bring forth the language of the investigator. Yet. a more dominating framework on how translations are done can be imposed by linguistic methods and means of inquiry which are absent in more vague cultural translation attempts. morphological.) have been used as glosses. Under Boas and his students. Furthermore. I The first part of this chapter attempts to demarcate some of the intellectual concerns which stimulated various types of translation but also may have neglected other potential expressions of translation. as well as in our efforts to generalize or forge a systematic study of human societies as Radcliffe-Brown demanded. anthropological theory regarding translation has been caught up in various conceptual developments.

Kroeber – 26 – . Radin’s Method and Theory in Ethnology (1933) is not only an attack on British anthropology but a devastating critique of Boas. the empirical content therein is so diverse as to make the label meaningless. then one is left to read 500 pages of text with virtually no conclusions. Boas. however. However. They also stressed that the laws. but the ideas did resonate well with Lowie and with some of Sapir’s non-linguistic writings. politics. Lowie’s Primitive Society (1920) reads from one chapter to another like an attack on the creation and use of categories such as economy. From my reading of this ethnography. 1933) and even Kroeber in his own way. Kroeber’s position on particularism and relativism is somewhat more obtuse. Written in the early 1930s. all accepted an anti-nominalistic position. As early as 1909 Kroeber proposed categories of kinship analysis which later became analytic categories for componential analysis in the 1960s and 1970s. Radin (1923. Lowie leaves the reader with the impression that kinship or polity in various societies embrace a series of institutions and behaviors which are highly variable. Kroeber and Benedict in their insistence that generalizations. particularism and relativism might have been an embarrassment to Boas and some of the Boasians.Aram A. kinship and social organization. The reason they are called ‘kinship’ is simply the result of our definition of kinship as a category but. Radin’s (1923) ethnography of the Winnebago goes further in denying all categories and generalizations. In his historical writings on Western civilization as expressed in The Configurations of Cultural Growth (1944) and other works and essays from the 1930s on. Lowie in Primitive Society (1920). comparisons and generalizations of the evolutionists and the founders of British social anthropology (Malinowski and Radcliffe-Brown) were only “law-like” because of the way phenomena were defined apart from an empirical existence. even one with minimal priority. For example. moved in many different directions regarding these matters. Kroeber (1952: 175–81) also differed in part from the Boasian antinominalist position. Yengoyan the ultimate goals which could only be achieved after the particular and the local were analyzed and understood. with limited or no connection to anything else. translated Winnebago ethnography by simply giving the “facts” to the reader in the way the Winnebago gave the “facts” to him. basically arguing against categories of analysis. enumerating cultural things the way people gave them to him. even weak comparisons. in fact. and cultural portraits (via Benedict) must be one of anthropology’s aims. I would conclude that Radin’s account is the best and only example we have of a postmodern treatise which has eluded any contemporary notice of postmodern description. Radin. The Boasians. Thus. Kroeber insisted that kinship terms were primarily linguistic rather than sociological. If Radin is simply the passive scribe of the tribe. whose only theoretical position was historical. Radin’s heavy intellectual and moral commitment to localism. In particular.

Most of these developments were attacked by Boas in the 1930s. he also makes it clear that some customs/practices should only be described and that is the best we can do. II The emphasis on the particular and the enhancing and deepening of the idea of difference. and they were heavily criticized by Radin throughout his writings. Radcliffe-Brown stressed that societal differences could be related to a finite number of social structural types and/or subtypes. Furthermore. early British anthropology took the reverse position.Lyotard and Wittgenstein and Translation moves toward a form of generalization. Kroeber discusses “odd customs. since it violates the very subject it treats. can only capture one facet of how the game of language is played.” which has been one of the markers of grammatical analysis. both writers have started their inquiries with marked particularism and relativism. In Anthropology (1948). His critique is a heavy attack on Malinowski’s hypotheses which explain couvade and other “exotic” behaviors. Wittgenstein makes it clear that “obeying a rule. since the context in which rules are played changes and those changes have an impact on what the rule is and – 27 – . textbooks noted that what anthropology conveyed was the range of socio-cultural differences and similarities expressed within the arc of human variation. There have been few.” such as the couvade. In support of this position. For Malinowski. Although their approaches differ somewhat. comparison and interpretation which culminates in Anthropology (1948). there were only surface differences in culture which were directed toward the universality of our biological constitution as well as what human nature meant. Kroeber. In this sense obeying a rule can only be done by one individual and only once. he further warns that analysis may cause the phenomena to dissolve into something else with no reality. past or contemporary writers who would argue such a position – only in the heyday of theoretical triteness. and reviews theories which may explain the practice. however. While the Americans stressed differences over similarities. was simply warning that the “heavy greasy hand” of the anthropologist in regard to explanation and interpretation must always be scrutinized. While such is an issue (if not a problem) in anthropology. we might extend our inquiries to how problems of translation have been comprehended by Wittgenstein and Lyotard. Kroeber stresses that we should always be concerned with the potential violation of the nature of the object which may succumb to vapid and banal explanations. Kroeber argues that these explanations are trite and even worthless. which has been part of our intellectual genealogy. if any. has a critical and marked impact on our concerns for translation. In Philosophical Investigations (1958). But Kroeber has another side in which the argument regarding generalization and facile theory is accepted with marked caution and even contempt.

language is a form of life or a frame which embeds all of what we consider as grammar. but of more importance to me is that the idea of difference becomes the barometer of accepting statements which we can call truth.” Following from Wittgenstein’s approach. 199) states “To understand a sentence means to understand a language. Do the rules of chess exclude such behaviors or customs? From this postulate Wittgenstein (1958: para. or what Becker (1995) has called “languaging. For Wittgenstein.” This type of specificity would never be limited to a rule which is privately conceived. as the contrast between the factual and the counterfactual. Yengoyan how it is expressed. As long as difference(s) become the bottom line. As an avid chess player. it must be understood as the essence of language. Rules are caught up in customs. From Wittgenstein to the recent work by Becker. To understand a language means to be master of a technique. “pain” is still first and foremost a mental term which is not reducible.Aram A. But grammar per se does not and will not capture the essence of language games.” and although “pain” is expressive of behavioral parameters. it becomes virtually impossible to invoke any form of translation. Becker (1995: 288) concludes that the specificity of language is primarily orientational (as opposed to denotational). Wittgenstein’s position is nearly always linked to the contrast between the argument and the counterargument or. The implications of these contrasts sharpen Wittgenstein’s conception of language and language games. which one might never fully contemplate or even arrive at. which for Wittgenstein means uses and institutions. but it is fairly clear that when Wittgenstein enunciates the word “pain. Language as image creates the varying propositions which we use and state and express to ourselves throughout our language experiences. Wittgenstein knows the rules of chess but also notes that the stamping of feet or yelling during the match might be part of the context of the game. – 28 – . Both sets of contrasts I consider as parallel. para. Thus language is an organizer of experience as well as the framing of contexts which bear on the speaker and also evoke memories which speakers bring forth to explain experience. his major challenge to the issue is how language is evoked by memory and memory-reaction. Throughout his discussion of language and any possibility of translation. since the private aspect of language would have to collapse and combine the act of thinking about a rule as isomorphic to obeying a rule. Some writers have wrongly concluded that many aspects of Wittgenstein’s thoughts on language are a form of behaviorism. and the context.” The technique is far beyond the rules per se and would embrace the whole context of language. in more recent contemporary thinking. and one is merely tracing round the frame through which we look at it. Although Wittgenstein has a relatively negative view of the privatization of language. 114) states “One thinks that one is tracing the outline of the thing’s nature over and over again. the issue of difference and specificity is only one facet of particularism. As Wittgenstein (1958. which establishes how the performance of rules occur.

translation is the writing of cultural portraits or language portraits as texts. the problem remains: namely. Lyotard (1988: 48) emphatically argues that phrases are governed by different regimens which cannot be translated into each other. or both sides of the phrase regimen are dissolved into something else. can any form of translation be adequately accomplished? The conclusion from my reading is that it cannot be done. Contexts are radically and differently shaped. his conviction is that only a sense of difference and heterodoxy can minimize political domination based on global theory and homogeneity which sweeps away and obliterates all voices based on the local and the particular. Lyotard takes the phrase from Stendhal “Be a popular hero of virtù like Bonaparte” as an assignment of prescriptive value to the name/label Bonaparte. Each of these portraits. frames involve a range of contexts which include the physical world. Any translation from one language to another assumes that the phrase of the departing language is – 29 – . an ethics and a strategy. what are we translating. Yet in dealing with distantly related languages. a tradition which goes from Benedict to Geertz in cultural anthropology. Becker’s (1995) appeal for a return to philology. is premised on the approach that the primary task of the modern version of philology is describing and interpreting these different frames. shapes and attunes speakers to context and in turn defines how context bears on speakers. either as cultural behavior or as speech. But the political agenda has far-reaching effects in regards to language and any possibility of translation. and what Becker calls languaging. what he labels Modern Philology. for the anthropologist. In both Wittgenstein and Becker. even if we know what that is.” In this vein. must be comprehended as portraits and readings which are basically non-comparable. prior texts and frames which embed and create action. the parts to the whole. and they also require both memory retrieval and new memories combined with possibly radical prior texts which an outsider might be unable to master or even approximate. and. Lyotard develops the idea that the phrase is the most minimal unit of analysis which embeds and combines the context in which language occurs. Although Lyotard is concerned about the political aspects of differend. On this basis. these problems are not only difficult but virtually insurmountable. Lyotard’s concern is to move toward the most minimal “thing” which creates and maintains difference. This name is an Ideal of practical or political reason in the Kantian sense. Lyotard (1988: 48) states: “A phrase which attaches a life-ideal to a man’s name and which turns that name into a watchword is a potentiality of instructions. prior texts. and how silence is constituted. In a series of examples. I suspect that. that being the phrase. social factors. The overall idea is that the differend cannot or should not be collapsed into another in which one phrase regimen is dissolved into the other.Lyotard and Wittgenstein and Translation consequently language. In Becker’s analysis. Lyotard’s The Differend: Phrases in Dispute (1988) represents an even more acute and radical move in the direction of particularism and difference.

Lyotard casts translation as partly a cultural matter.Aram A. since the phrase regimen is highly specific within each language and not only is that phrase regimen a qualitative variable between languages. but also in what Lyotard calls pertinences which are “transversal. As Becker (1995) emphatically notes. This is what linguists have done with the procedures of parsing and glossing which have been accepted as a normal methodology. it must also approximate the “manners” of thought.” Furthermore. but the barriers are still as marked as in his 1988 position. At best we can only get glimpses of the past and the distant as bits of this and that: either the bits impose on our thought. Translations assume that the regimen and its corresponding genre are analogous to another language or one set of regimen/genre in language “A” has a counterpart in language “B. but his critique is that translation in any form is virtually impossible. but that every translation begets another one. Yengoyan recoverable in the phrase of the receiving language. 1997: 153). or we can impose our thought – 30 – . still concludes “How then can phrases belonging to different regimes and/or genres (whether within the same language or between two languages) be translated from one into the other?” (Lyotard 1988: 49). One’s thought is translatable as much as the speaker’s. Lyotard. But the final problem still exists in that we might extrapolate one’s language or even phrase regimens. Any adequate translation for Lyotard is not only a matter of respecting thought. yet we can never get into how one/the speaker inhabits the language or the culture. just as Stendhal used the Bonaparte imagery. Even if translation is attempted in language (a position which was unacceptable in The Differend). other forms are not directly translated from language A to B and back. the baggage of culture from near texts to distant texts in time and space cannot be surmounted.” Here Lyotard sees translation as a triangulation in which both languages resonate with one another through a third meta-structure which produces or generates similar analogies with each other. who does not address the problems of parsing and glossing. thus one is never at home in another’s home. Lyotard recognizes the possibility and also correctly argues that translation is not only an infinite task with no closure. The process of glossing from one language to another is seldom if ever a neutral act. due to the fact that languages by definition are translatable (Lyotard. the claims of universality through translation is a political expression in which the language of the powerful becomes the measure or barometer in which universality is forged. In this sense languages can only be described within their own historical contexts. In reading his essay “Directions to Servants” (based on Jonathan Swift’s essay on how one talks to servants). Lyotard would probably support this position. Lyotard is more open to the possibility of translation. but each language through its history must work from different regimens which are temporally specific. Again we return to the problem which Wittgenstein noted and which Becker calls languaging. translations from one language to another are one type of translation. In Postmodern Fables (1997).

1959).Lyotard and Wittgenstein and Translation on the bits. Lyotard and Becker. One cannot address one’s thought. the problems of any “adequate and approximate” translation might be insurmountable. but each life style of speech is filled with silences which might escape any translation. once again by glossing the particular and possibly unique into our thought with all of the political facets of domination which our thought might embrace. Many writers view Lyotard as the most dominant voice in postmodernism. the opposite. it returns to Wittgenstein’s caution regarding private language games. where figure presupposes reference and is configured in difference. For anthropologists. we could conclude that in Lyotard’s philosophy of language (like Wittgenstein’s) the grammatical mode of the sentence is primary. one can only listen to noise which generates thought. but the real beauty of housecleaning as translation is to keep disorder and partial chaos as part of the process. Citing Ortega y Gasset (1957. situational analysis. – 31 – . one where difference is paramount and the contradictions can only be noted but not resolved. Translation is a combination and exchange of representation and self-effacement. Yet. Though I would argue against this position. Thought for Lyotard is linked to the noise of language either through discourse or through writing. since there is no resolution in translation. which is another form of discourse. declares. situational and particular events/data would include observations which we think might be incomparable. translation between languages is still somewhat more feasible in comparison to translation between phrase regimes which cannot be translated. III Apart from the cautionary strictures regarding translation as set forth by Wittgenstein. The exuberances and deficiencies either say more than we know or less than what we intend. “Two apparently contradictory laws are involved in all uttering.” One says. Translation is thus a form of house-cleaning which might be tidy. but the sentence cannot rest on grammar per se. “Every utterance is exuberant” – it conveys more than it plans and includes not a few things we would wish left silent. Furthermore. Becker (1995) readily notes that grammar is limiting in what we can or cannot say. and a phenomenological commitment in which figure reigns over discourse. The other law. Lyotard is also keenly aware of the impact of noise (and possibly silence though not directly addressed) on thought. In his attack on grand theory. “Every utterance is deficient” – it says less than it wishes to say. The model logic of each sentence (or phrase) is primarily comprehended by the different logics which impinge on the sentence. but my reading is that his postmodernism is an intellectual and political appeal for the situational and the particular. Returning to language. Lyotard also moves the discussion from discourse to contextualization.

and the same problem occurs in moving from German to Aranda. If we return to our common thinking about traditional grammars. attempts a looser translation which might lose some of the subtleness of information but the meaning will be conveyed. Pawley correctly notes that the problem in translation is to find adequate equivalents between English and Kalam. which will be – 32 – . Both conditions (deficiencies and exuberances) rest in the language of the translator. but this might reflect that the speakers of the two languages do not share conceptual categories in common and their ways of talking about the world might not resonate with one another. Again. Pawley (1991: 434) stresses the point that “Translation is something that language users do with particular ideas expressed by particular texts. a language in the central highlands of Papua New Guinea. translation involves explicating their conceptual scheme even if it does not completely “resonate” with ours. does with deficient and exuberant markers. and they would also exist in the metalanguage of the translation process. Yengoyan All translations face this problem. the matter of glossing is still an issue. Working with Kalam. however.” The job of the translator can be defined roughly as taking the message or idea that someone has expressed in language A and rendering the message in language B in a way that speakers of B will understand readily. Most grammars deal with rules. does one find certain features which fall into one or the other category? Translation is not neutral. in the process of parsing and glossing. and thus the speakers live in partially different conceptual schemes (Pawley 1991: 442). in comparing the language of the translator to the language of the distant speaker. but the difficult strictures which make glossing an impossibility are minimized. In this sense. However. In a literal rendering which maintains the conceptual scheme of the original language. but one could speculate that certain aspects of language and languaging might have a cross-cultural basis from which one aspect of languaging across languages falls more in one direction as opposed to its counterpart. In his appeal for pragmatic translation. often speakers of the receiving language might be unable to comprehend the categories. we might recast the problem in another way. be it spoken or written. hunting in Kalam can be grasped. grammars of the type we have read are seldom done in an idiomatic mode which is useful for the speakers of the language as well as for the translator. This is not the only issue. Boas faced this issue in working on Kwakiutl texts and English. nevertheless. but we can also learn something about the procedural basis of translation.Aram A. but they do not tell us how to say things. As Pawley (1991) notes. glossing between distant languages is and has always been a problem. Pawley. since what is of more interest is to demarcate what is deficient and exuberant in the home language of the translator and also to note what the near or distant text. following Bulmer. Even a “simple” label like hunting might have no good equivalent in both languages. Glossing of this type would be easier (and probably safer) between languages which are related. Even though hunting in Kalam is not the same as hunting in English.

round. etc. IV In order to devise a method for cultural translation. The former refers to the mental ability to categorize and abstract. its capacity to operate in situations not specifically given in a particular culture context. Culture consciousness designates that part of the total mental capacity which is actualized or realized by or ‘in’ a particular culture. If a subject matter which vaguely resonates with speakers of two different languages can be created. Innate universals are probably genetically programmed and they may include certain specific categories such as features of shape (flat. Experiential universals are those of experience. conceptualize and categorize in terms of various combinations of thought which are not determined by the content of thought. Lévi-Strauss 1963). In either case. long. I propose a basic distinction between culture as a potential set of categories of thought. Culture is composed of those categories. each particular society takes a segment as ‘its’ culture (cf. What sets off one culture from another.). When Freud or Turner (1967: 88) state that red symbolizes blood they are claiming that this is a universal inductive generalization from a universal human experience. and culture as consciousness. which provide lifestyles and meaning to a particular society. Universal forms of thought occur not only in terms of categories of thought. actual and conscious. Such universals are roughly equivalent to Chomskian universals or categories of thought/structural categories in the Lévi-Straussian sense. Most important is the assumption that this universal set of thought is a mental process characteristic of and shared equally by all human cultures. it might be easier to devise some semi-conventional modes of thinking and articulation between both languages and their speakers. From this range of possible forms. but also in its overall potential for abstraction. Where I would differ from the latter contrast is that actualized categories need not be completely at the level of the unconscious. but more important they are ‘inductive’ and ‘empirical’.Lyotard and Wittgenstein and Translation elaborated on in more detail in the discussion. is a set of realized categories or structures. They come into play when consciousness is expanded and – 33 – . but also as intersecting structures of categories. and what each culture emphasizes. the universal refers to the ability and potential of the mind to abstract. The quest for universals requires an analytic distinction between innate and experiential universals. It should be noted that the contrast between actualized categories and unconscious categories has some connections with the Boasian and Lévi-Straussian distinction between surface structures and underlying structures. either consciously or unconsciously. not only in the mind’s dealings with reality in any specific situation.

myth and cosmology are conscious to individual participants. much of culture is conscious and is manifest through behavior and verbalized rules and patterns to explain what the behavior means and why it exists. Universal sets of categorization and structures of thought are contrasted to particular manifestations which occurs as “a culture. Imposition of etic consciousness on the consciousness of the people results in – 34 – . Not only does the anthropological inquiry collapse consciousness of actual and potential categories into a single level of analysis. Yengoyan when different (and possibly new) categories and groupings emerge to explain the growth of consciousness. and it is at this level where history manipulates and. This point is critical since I am assuming that more ideas and thought exist than words or linguistic forms to express these ideas. The expression of rules pertaining to marriage. Culture rests in both actual and conscious categories. In reality each individual is aware of his cultural context. but it also compounds the problem when the anthropologist imposes his consciousness or his models on the culture. Diachronic processes gradually modify and channel what is universal. abstractions and conceptualizations as well as certain processes which are not verbalized or cannot be linguistically labeled will be unconscious. Categories.” The two are quite different due to a number of distortions which occur through the process of history and change. The distinction between implicit categories of culture and the conscious categories of a culture is also distorted by anthropological inquiry. and history is the critical link between the universal and ‘a’ culture. ritualized behavior. We should not assume that history and change have destroyed the existence of the universal. In fact. and in many cases the overt expression of cultural forms cannot be related to antecedent conditions. since the universal as a concept might not appear in every case or its appearance may be modified. Normally anthropologists assume that what people are conscious of is isomorphic with the totality of potential knowledge. The assumption is basically similar to what the philosopher Michael Polanyi (1966) designates as tacit knowledge. thus what is needed is the determination of how consciousness can be evoked for other areas of thought which are both/either subconscious and/or unconscious. Structures change over time.Aram A. From actualized categories only a portion ever fall into the realm of consciousness to the participants. at times. This type of activity violates the nature of the phenomena and it also displaces our inquiry further from the realm of their knowledge. mutilates structure. but this does not mean that such mental processes are absent. the creativity of the mind is precisely in those areas of thought and ideas which are not readily transmittable through verbal discourse. Although some aspects of a culture are unconscious to its members. Thus the existence of metaphor and rhetoric and their differential utilization in various cultures brings forth the unique human ability to create and transmit ideas through the manipulation of language.

age grades. yet language expresses a small segment of this vast assortment of thought. fieldworkers are primarily concerned with the relationship of their conceptual models to those known and accepted for the groups one is studying. most parameters of classification are based on animateness. taste or smell. thus consciousness only deals with a fragment of cultural systems. Thus in East Africa one expects to find lineages. Thus we can never assume that what people say or do represents the totality of what they know.Lyotard and Wittgenstein and Translation conclusions and theory which are doubly removed from what culture encompasses or from the total potential which the mind is capable of comprehending. but only as a secondary differentiation among members of a specific generation. is vast and in all probability infinite. In the analysis of culture. However. feel. But more important is the ability of the mind to be more inclusive for thought while only a fragment of its potential emerges on the behavioral and linguistic level of discourse. the ability of the mind for abstraction. The criterion of gender appears in all of the kinship-based classifier systems. There are few metaphors based on sound. In the distinction between human/non-human there is more than one class for humans. The mind can devise and create all sorts of categories and relationships: it can abstract in infinite ways. Underlying this particular linguistic function is the sense of sight while the sense of smell is ignored. the mind may classify by gender alone and the fact that certain Malayo-Polynesian languages do not verbalize it should not be accepted as an indicator that the mental ability to categorize by gender is absent. What appears of interest in numeral classifications is the almost total dependence on the visual feature of form. since previous accounts note their existence. In some languages such as Vietnamese. occupation is secondary while sex is tertiary. the mind’s ability to classify in many ways. and furthermore recognizes a portion of the total potential. thus. In most languages. Regardless of the yield which eyes or smell present. It is imperative that for analytical and theoretical purposes we must not fail to distinguish between each form of consciousness. conceptualization and categorization is greater than language as well as being prior to the evolution of language. Thus returning to my original assumption. age is the primary distinction. while in insular Southeast – 35 – . a woman is classified by the occupation she holds and not by gender. Humans are grouped according to social rank or according to kinship but not both. Gender often occurs in status-based systems but again only as a secondary or tertiary categorization. humans are not categorized on the basis of gender alone. only some of which is “logical” as Western science and humanities know it. The second critical issue relates to the problem of methodology. shape and function. and segmentary societies. most of which are not linguistic. In the analysis of numeral classifiers. An illustration of this variation is found in a work on numeral classification systems among certain languages in south-east Asia and other Austronesian languages (Adams and Conklin 1973).

Such attempts in cultural translation would focus on how qualitatively different cultural forms are translatable into other cultural systems which on the overt level possess no common similarities. since the final product of the translation is a mental exercise in the minds of cultural participants. but it does this at the expense of real insight into the structures underlying emic interpretations and behavior. Traditional social inquiry has focused on the opposite direction. the structures that result from these inquiries are the result of our own anthropological etic. The linguist starts from order in grammar and gradually re-alters order and meaning in different ways with the objective of determining if different utterances still maintain meaning to consultants. and by conscious manipulation of rules we might detect how informants relate to variations and modifications without complete loss of meaning. At this point it could be said that the consultant’s acceptance of expressive possibility has reached its limit. Seeking jural rules provides one mode of access to ethnographic order. Yengoyan Asia cognatic societies are prevalent and from this knowledge the fieldworker can generate specific ethnographic models which fit a broader picture. but such inquiry does not evoke consciousness among cultural participants. a point is eventually reached when a consultant states that an utterance is nonsense. It is in the realm of evoking consciousness that mental processes can be detected. The tolerance for understanding speech is truly vast. and it may add more “credence” to the existing knowledge of a particular cultural area or cultural type. but once we accept this we are in a dilemma of dealing with cultural differences on the one hand and structural similarities on the other hand. Of more importance and interest is to take rules as the starting point and determine how far rules and order can be manipulated in different ways and varying directions. and that the extent to which one’s conscious abilities permit comprehension of other cultural forms can be determined. In cultural translation. however. This form of standard anthropological investigation is adequate. anthropologists should redirect research to an understanding of how consciousness on the implicit cultural level may be evoked. Rules are regarded as paramount. and not solely within the – 36 – .Aram A. Traditional anthropological translations have simply not recognized the problem of how consciousness may be evoked. What commonly results is that a person can relate to this variation and manipulation of order in that it transmits meaning though the particular utterance is far from ‘correct’. Fieldwork in a particular culture usually reifies one’s conceptual scheme. we can determine how informants recognize patterns or rules. and the meaning for consciousness of a particular form is absent. However. yet maintain meaning to cultural participants. that how these processes are connected to other activities can be observed. Translation of culture through the evoking of consciousness in consultants minimizes the influence of these etic interpretations. it is simply wrong and he or she does not recognize what is transmitted. By starting from cultural categories and conscious codes.

The distinction between different spheres of knowledge. A case in support of this is found in the work of the German Lutheran missionary. the particular conscious manifestation takes numerous forms. a language which has a highly complex set of tenses (and/or aspect) which are used in remarkable ways in regard to the matters of sacredness as opposed to mundane activities. Carl Strehlow who lived among the Aranda of Central Australia from about 1894 to 1922. This involves the issue of embeddedness in which the presence of a feature is subsumed under another category or set of features. Strehlow translated various parts of the Bible into Aranda. However. is critical in developing the relationship between the universal and the particular. the distinction has been discussed by Kenneth Hale (1975) who brilliantly demonstrates that counting is a universal. In tracing the processes regarding neutrality in translation. Discussion As previously noted. Linguists are aware of embeddedness and its implications in understanding universals. Strehlow realized that the use of the past tense in German distorted how Aranda myths based in the most distant past were propelled into the present (and possibly the most – 37 – . In the case of potential categories as a universal set of concepts or forms. the art and act of translation is never neutral. it is nonexistent. as well as how matters of time link the most ancient past to the near past to the recent past and to the present. In this scenario. The problem of embeddedness of one form or concept in another is critical and widespread. the whole idea of counting was mastered with virtually no problem.Lyotard and Wittgenstein and Translation terms of the anthropological etic (Yengoyan 1978. it also appears that in some cases. if a cultural form is not apparent. in some cases it is absent while in other cultures certain universal features are distorted or are embedded in other forms. In attempting to capture the nuances of how time and sacredness co-vary. but that among the Walbiri it does not exist as part of the cultural context.” It is illusory to argue that gaps in particular cultural systems are a denial of the universal. the consultant participates actively in producing the cultural translation. with the introduction of money along with the English counting system. The universal is a concept and the particular manifestation of the universal might be absent in certain cases of cultural analysis. and anthropologists and linguists must devise means for analyzing how this process operates. the first or earliest translations might be closer to “neutrality” as opposed to succeeding translations of the same language. 1979). thus masking their appearance. as opposed to assuming that the universal exists as a concept and attempting to realize how the process of embeddedness operates in masking and altering appearances. either as conscious categories or as the potential of thought. anthropologists have assumed the position that. The kinds of gaps which exist in particular languages or grammars may also provide parallel gaps in “Cultures. During this period. however. Initially.

Again. This small case is instructive on a number of grounds. Strehlow. I am arguing that the study of languages became more and more “scientific” as linguistics emerged as an empirical and theoretical endeavour so that the study of language was undertaken in order to verify or dispute certain facets of theoretical linguistics. but surely the loss in his case is far less than what happens when the subject matter of disciplines becomes oversystemized and -formalized. meaning some semblance of economic and political uniformity and dominance – such as English and French in which translation and critique evolve as a dialectic expression – have the virtue of rendering access and creativity in each language as a positive critique of itself and the other. Yet. even translations from Spanish to French and from French to Spanish are chaotic in terms of what is lost let alone misunderstood. correctly realized that the problem was not in Aranda. there is always loss in translation. could capture the nuances of how biblical texts could be translated into Aranda and how Aranda texts on myth could be brought into German.” especially in English. Thus. In Aranda. Second. returning to Ortega y Gasset (1937. Yengoyan distant future). even among “equal” languages such as English and French. In the analysis of Burmese. Since his work. it appears that early translations by individuals who were not professional linguists probably were a closer approximation of these languages and also how a translation could be done without a gross violation of the language under observation. although even in such a case one might not find this possible. 1992). understanding that Aranda was to be the standard from which other translations flowed. written in the early 1850s. Again. Strehlow. Yet. is still considered one of the best grammars on Burmese. who possessed a fine knowledge of Aranda without having the baggage of an intellectual discipline on his shoulders. the grammar and dictionary by Adoniram Judson. translations of these biblical texts have been done in English in which the translators have gradually moved away from the imperfective to the past tense. Asad (1993: 189) warns us that a critique must be based on a good translation. reprinted in Schulte et al. the current global cultural wars between Anglophone and Francophone worlds of influence and domination is approaching a state of semi-inequality. which is the nearest equivalent in German (and English) to what is found in Aranda. this movement through time without finalization is done through the use of the imperfective. – 38 – . one finds Burmese flowing in and through his analysis which in turn is almost vacuous of what the science of language had to offer at that time. if neutrality is a vague ideal which might be approximated.Aram A. assuming that a good translation is in part based on two languages which are more or less equal according to the strictures of power.” Languages of some equality. but in the limitations of German. Again. the problem is compounded by what Asad (1993: 189) calls “unequal languages. which is problematic and in most cases has hardly any reflex in Aranda. First. The Strehlow case is hardly unique. But the imperfective is relatively “awkward.

. not if one takes it lightly. it goes without saying that current concerns about language extinction and cultural genocide are the parts of a process which started and unfolded in the nineteenth century. how language differs from language almost the way dialect differs from dialect. it is also connected to the intellectual hegemony of Western academia as it spread globally. Works by Wittgenstein and Lyotard address the – 39 – . and tone converge. The problem of power differences is the basis of linguistic imperialism as expressed in our attempts at translation. this last is true only if one takes language seriously enough. It is not generally realized to what extent this is possible. Perspectives The essential challenge for anthropology lies in the process of translation – both linguistic and cultural translation. English.Lyotard and Wittgenstein and Translation The impact of loss in translation is even greater in languages which are not only distant. Particularly when translating from a language very remote from his own he must go back to the primal elements of language itself and penetrate to the point where work. but also characterized by a marked and radical differentiation in inequality. Greek. He must expand and deepen his language by means of the foreign language. however. even the best ones. . proceed from a wrong premise.or fourth-world speakers receive no voice. English into German instead of turning German into Hindi. They want to turn Hindi. If anthropologists like Asad and myself and linguists like Becker lament how the language and power of the colonizer have formed relations of inequality which are irreversible. to what extent any language can be transformed. The contemporary far-reaching effects of globalization and the transnational movements of a global culture have a lineal connection to what Benjamin might have predicted. Asad (1993) explores the various facets in which the translation process becomes a forcible transformation. In part this process was not only a matter of world imperialism. namely the power relationships of the dominant socio-political context is such that the languages of the third. Professionalization combined with desires to create uniformity in method and theory throughout the social sciences always work against the idea of difference. Our translators have a far greater reverence for the usage of their own language than for the spirit of the foreign works. yielding a situation in which the language of the colonized is framed and re-framed into the language of the colonizer. This expression of inequality was noted by Walter Benjamin (1969 [1923]) in his reference to and citation of Pannwitz: Our translations. Greek. . image. The basic error of the translator is that he preserves the state in which his own language happens to be instead of allowing his language to be powerfully affected by the foreign tongue.

we can describe frames and form. If Heidegger saw the problem as one of moving from the external to the internal. – 40 – . The roots of this position return us to the Ancient Greeks captured in Heraclitus’ insight that one can never step in the same river again. invoking the phrase regime as the ultimate level where difference exists. really only the frame through which we see the thing is traced in expression. they direct our focus on how forms as frames are delimited and perpetually changing. be it translation. frames are altered and at most we again return to Wittgenstein’s previously cited warning that we are perpetually tracing the frame. and those which start on the outside and move to the inside. One is the ongoing critical discussion in Marxist aesthetics between form and content. and while one imagines that the nature of something has been stated. Does this mean that the frame and framing is the only venture which we can accomplish? Is there any possibility of entering into the whole from one frame. there might be no “right way” but the task is still before us. and the possible manifestation of chaos. At most. both Wittgenstein and more so Lyotard keenly understood the dangers of uniformity in its various expressions. Wittgenstein and Becker. Difference as the start and the end of the translation endeavour is always there. For Wittgenstein. the problem is aptly summarized by his concern that “What is decisive is not to get out of the circle but to come into it the right way. Although these developments are hardly Marxist. if anything. both of whom are fully aware of how content is as critical as form. Contexts and events change. a task undertaken with the utmost caution. By stressing the importance of difference as an intellectual concern and as a political agenda. To cast the issue in another way with more implications for anthropology is to raise again the age-old problem of accounts/descriptions which move from the inside to the outside. language. 1962). which results from the nuanced interrelations between form and content in any given context. Introducing the contrast between form and content to the problem of translation might allow us to clarify in what directions previous attempts in translation theory have moved and to what extent we can go beyond them. Wittgenstein invokes the sentence as the final expression where difference lies whereas Lyotard moves even closer toward difference and particularism. especially in dealing with distant texts and languages. but this also brings forth the issues of content and dialectics. echo the ongoing debate between form and content. or even a class-driven social system. can we say about the river? Entering the frame must always be a task of translation. language creates the varying propositions which we use in daily expressions.” For anthropologists and less so for linguists. These differences in philosophical approaches again bring us back to two fundamental points of departure. from one picture which only yields one image or one portrait? We can never enter the same river twice but what. Yengoyan implications and complexities involved in this process.Aram A. For Heidegger (Being and Time.

a framework which questioned the assumption that form is primary to content. Anthropology as a cultural translation might appear peripheral to these genealogies of intellectual history. Translation is an impossibility. or some segments of anthropology. Coetzee (2001) clearly demonstrates that Benjamin’s atheoretical approach to the Arcades Project reveals the limitations of this perspective. the words in a language were simply not signifiers. and the actors of a culture. and our attempts are only approximations which only the speakers of a language can critique. Thus translations. which is the classic Saussurean assumption. but the problems encountered by Benjamin remain our problems. argue that to know and convey a culture is to know its geist.Lyotard and Wittgenstein and Translation it was Benjamin’s attempts at translation which invoked the inside position. but an inward direction to the idea of what words mean. In a recent piece. then that can only be understood and interpreted as a matter of content which provides the uniqueness which local cultures and languages express. cultural or linguistic. Our language and meta-language regarding translation differs from other intellectual traditions. the Benjamin position goes back to the sixteenth. which is quite different from binary theories of language that culminate in the nineteenth century and eventually in the works of Saussure. Apart from the inside/outside contrast. stimulating negative responses from Adorno and Brecht. But Benjamin was always leery of theorizing. create and manifest. might be full of misery and fraught with problems which are almost insurmountable. It is only the “inside” and the “content” which is the final jury on closure. the novelist and literary critic J. M. Coetzee (2001) clarifies this matter in Benjamin’s writing by stressing that words are not simply binary transactions. but we must realize that translations are performed so that difference is always presented as part of our quest for understanding the variability in the human condition. For Benjamin. the perpetual conflict between translation of form and translation of content and how these can be combined theoretically is a continual dilemma in either a Marxist or a non-Marxist approach. But in the history of language. As Coetzee (2001: 30) notes. And the jury is the speakers of a language. Most of our translations can be characterized as developments in form over content and possibly the dominance of the outside over the inside. but that they also reflect a directiveness which resonates with the Idea which is Benjamin’s critical concern for language as a form of mimesis. – 41 – . The parallel to the Arcades project is apparent in Benjamin’s approach to translation which was also committed to an internal approach linking words and meanings towards the Idea. But if anthropology. The challenge for translation is that it must convey simultaneously both difference and similarity of meaning.and seventeenth-century concepts that language was essentially a ternary linkage. the idea of mimesis in language is out of step with current linguistic science. since it imposed an external constraint on the very phenomena which he was attempting to interpret from the inside.

L. Lowie.” In Linguistics and Anthropology: In Honor of C. 1993. Illuminations. Brace and World. 1988. Lévi-Strauss. —— Anthropology. “Toward a Theory of Natural Classification. J. 1962. References Adams. 1975. 1952. 28–33. D. L. pp.Aram A. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Asad.” In Theories of Translation: An Anthology of Essays from Dryden to Derrida. Jean-François. —— The Nature of Culture. Structural Anthropology. 1948. and A. and N. 1995. Berkeley: University of California Press. Corum. 1969[1923]. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. M. – 42 – . pp. L. Hale and O. K. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Conklin. C.” New York Review of Books 48. 1–10. Werner (eds.. Talal. A. Genealogies of Religion: Discipline and Reasons of Power in Christianity and Islam. Yengoyan Acknowledgments I wish to thank Victor Golla and Kendall House for their acute and perceptive reading of the first version of this chapter. Benjamin. Rainer and John Biguenet (eds. 295–315. Lyotard. —— Postmodern Fables. Being and Time. Becker. F. Beyond Translation: Essays Toward a Modern Philology. M.). New York: Basic. Claude. 1937/1992. T. Kinkade. New York: Schocken. 1944. Robert. Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society. 1973. Martin. 1963..” In Papers from the Ninth Regional Meeting: Chicago Linguistic Society. New York: Harcourt. L. their efforts saved me from some critical mistakes. 1997. Voegelin. “The Misery and Splendor of Translation. Lisse: Peter de Ridder Press. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1920. Hale. 2001. Coetzee. “Gaps in Grammars and Cultures. Heidegger. F. Kroeber. K. C. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. L. Walter. New York: Harper. 93–112. José. New York: Horace Liveright Publishing Corp. Schulte. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. K. January 11. Smith-Stark. pp. “The Marvels of Walter Benjamin. pp. Weisler (eds. The Differend: Phrases in Dispute. Primitive Society.). Configurations of Culture Growth.). A. Ortega y Gasset.

Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Paul. Pawley. The Tacit Dimension.. Radin. Pawley. Andrew. The Forest of Symbols: Aspects of Ndembu Ritual. A. —— “The Difficulty of Reading. New York: W. Hiatt. Reissued 1965. and Aram A. Michael. 1991. A.” In Man and a Half: Essays in Pacific Anthropology and Ethnobiology in Honor of Ralph Bulmer. L. – 43 – .).” In The Imagination of Reality: Essays in Southeast Asian Coherence Systems. Polanyi. 1958. 1978. Yengoyan (eds. Turner. The Winnebago Tribe. “Saying Things in Kalam: Reflections on Language and Translation. 1957. Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies. 1933. and Problems of Translation: The Kariera System in Cross-Cultural Perspective. Alton L. Becker. Winter. Auckland: The Polynesian Society. New Jersey: Ablex. New York: Macmillan. W.” Diogenes. New York: Doubleday. 325–330. Yengoyan. 1967. pp. 1959. 146–155. Norton. pp. 1923. Smithsonian Institution. Philosophical Investigations.” In Australian Aboriginal Concepts. No.). Wittgenstein. (ed.). R. Consciousness. 28. 3rd ed. V. —— “Cultural Forms and a Theory of Constraints. Ludwig. 1966. Andrew (ed. “Culture. —— The Method and Theory of Ethnology: An Essay in Criticism.Lyotard and Wittgenstein and Translation —— Man and People. New York: Basic. 1979. W. Washington: Bureau of American Ethnology.


If translation is construed as figuring out what others believe when they utter or write certain words. trying to restate those beliefs using the intentional terminology of the translator’s home language involves self-reference in a way that often inevitably distorts things. even if one were to successfully figure out what alien peoples believe at a particular time. I will attempt to systematically explain the fundamental reasons why translation is such a difficult endeavor. I will argue. Venuti has even described this process as being like “terrorism. The basic idea is the quite – 45 – .–2– Translation and Belief Ascription: Fundamental Barriers Todd Jones Introduction Translation is hard. In this chapter. I will argue that the root causes of the difficulties with translation have to do with problems intrinsic to intentional characterization.1 Ascribing beliefs to someone. Translation and Belief Ascription In the academic world there are numerous theories of what translation is all about. and is especially difficult in the sorts of situations that translators are in.” in its ability to “reconstitute and cheapen foreign texts” (1991). is a much more difficult epistemological task than is commonly appreciated. then fundamental difficulties in alien belief ascription will create many of the fundamental difficulties for translation that writers have frequently spoken about. I will also argue that. The view that continues to be dominant in philosophy (and cognitive science) is one that views translation – interpreting the sentences of an alien speaker – as a species of the problem of ascribing beliefs to an agent. Anyone who’s ever tried to converse beyond asking for directions in a language other than one’s own is well aware of this. Many scholars have written about how much is lost in the process of translating one language to another. The latter parts of the chapter consist of a discussion of some suggestions for how translators and belief ascribers can get around these fundamental problems.

) The other method. and using knowledge of those conditions. Writes philosopher and cognitive scientist Stephen Stich: In light of the strong parallelism between the project of translating a speaker’s sincere assertions and the project of interpreting or intentionally characterizing his mental sentences [his beliefs] it should come as no surprise that the principles governing and constraining translation will be mirrored by principles governing and constraining intentional interpretation. For some time. someone using the environmental strategy will view the presence of an attacking dog as evidence that the person being attacked believes him.) In discussing belief ascription. one needs to start by recognizing that the task of describing unobservable states of mind in others is just one instance of the very common and general problem of trying to uncover information about entities we can’t directly observe. Epistemological Barriers in Uncovering Beliefs Let me begin by saying why the task of uncovering beliefs is often an inherently difficult one.or herself to be under attack by a dog. One of the main ways is to try to infer what an unseen entity must be like by deriving information about it from our current theories of what the world is like under certain conditions. (1990: 34) In what follows I will not argue the merits of this conceptualization of translation. then the difficulties inherent in both figuring out what people believe and in saying what they believe are going to cause many of the fundamental difficulties in translation that so many commentators have noted. according to certain general regular patterns or laws. which might be termed “the behavioral strategy. Showing that a person was exposed to a certain natural or social environment is taken as evidence of his or her having the typical resulting belief. (So. (I will discuss why the task of uncovering alien beliefs during translation is especially difficult in due course.” Here one starts by observing external conditions that are thought to cause certain unseen states of affairs to result. the environmental strategy begins with the idea that certain beliefs result from exposure to certain perceptual/environmental situations.Todd Jones simple one that the task of understanding the assertions someone makes in an unknown tongue centers around figuring out what the speaker believes and wants others to believe when he or she makes those utterances. In the case of belief ascription. What I will argue is that if this is explicitly or implicitly the theory of translation that one is working with (and I believe it often is). One method might be termed “the environmental strategy. There are two general methods of gathering evidence and using theories to make this sort of inference.” – 46 – . there have been several methods for justifying claims about the unobservable.

that’s taken to be good evidence that those purported hidden causes are in fact there. is taken as evidence that the man believes something is chasing him. because we think that choosing vanilla over chocolate is caused by believing that vanilla is tastier. One of the main ways in which a person learning to translate an unfamiliar tongue proceeds is to assume that certain verbal outbursts and certain accompanying behavior would only be produced if certain sets of beliefs and desires were in place. however. then observing that behavior provides no evidence for the existence of any particular beliefs or desires. causing such behaviors to occur. One of the root difficulties of belief ascription is that. In our everyday lives. according to our theories. along with various sorts of theories about the given domain. Thus. people-watchers of various stripes.Translation and Belief Ascription starts with the assumption that only certain sorts of things can cause certain resulting actions. is true. rather than its equally well-predicting rivals. by selecting from an unlimited number of – 47 – . This inferred-from-behavior belief ascription is the basis for the initial hypothesis that “jhar suru garchu” should be translated as something like “rain’s coming. If different beliefs and desires could have led to the same behavior. we would typically infer that a friend believes that vanilla ice cream is tastier than chocolate when he or she chooses vanilla at the ice-cream stand. to help come to the conclusions that they do. observing certain resulting behaviors (including verbal utterances) is taken to be evidence that certain internal beliefs must be there. there exists not merely a few dozen or even a few thousand different possible beliefs and desires – but an infinite number of them. an anthropologist might reasonably assume that a Nepali shouting “jhar suru garchu. We must begin. use a combination of environmental and behavioral strategies. In the cases we are discussing. while continuing to look behind him with a frightened expression on his face.” looking upward and scrambling for shelter or a makeshift umbrella believed that it was about to rain.) Whether they ever explicitly discuss it or not. then. then observing that prediction doesn’t give you any evidence that the hypothesis in question. like most scholars examining unseen entities. Behavioral Strategies: The Problem of Alternative Hypotheses Ascribing beliefs based on behavioral evidence begins with the idea that having certain beliefs tends to cause certain behaviors. So when those resulting behaviors are observed. If there are plenty of viable alternative hypotheses that could generate the observed prediction.” It is a point of elementary logic. (So. seeing a man run. unlike the sparse fundamental building blocks of some other sciences. that merely showing that one can confirm a prediction entailed by a hypothesis isn’t enough to show that hypothesis is true.

etc. It is also possible. Because he desired children and believed Manita couldn’t have any. Any given behavior is. 6. Margaret Mead (1928) once attributed to a particular Samoan chief the belief that his beautiful lover Manita was far too haughty and aggressive to be a proper wife. if he showed he could not be taken for granted.” “there’s a group of undetached boat parts. 4. Because he believed that the women in the next village would find him more exotic and interesting than Manita would .Todd Jones potential belief posits. that he sought women in other villages: 1. The beliefs we can reasonably ascribe using a behavioral strategy are.” or “there’s a stage in a boat’s existence. When the Trobrianders initially pointed to an outrigger canoe. for example. 3. consistent with positing numerous different core beliefs and desires. This chief’s desire for a less proud and arrogant wife than Manita might indeed have led him to other villages. A central problem is that many different sorts of maps could usefully lead you to the same destination. makes strategies of inferring beliefs on the basis of such observations inherently risky. 5. We can think of beliefs as something like maps used for getting around the world. . She thought that this belief accounted for his lack of betrothal to Manita and his traveling to other villages to pursue other women. however. and said “Kewo’u. then. 2. Not knowing which of a number of different possible beliefs underlies the production of certain gestures and verbal utterances makes translation risky as well.” Malinowski (1922) initially had no firm way of telling whether they were thinking “there’s a boat. Because he had become attracted to a woman in the next village. however. thus. Because he believed Manita had become attracted to another man and he wanted revenge. Because he desired stronger ties with friends and relatives in the next village. The number of different belief and desire sets that can be alternatively responsible for the same behaviors. is a fairly weak restriction. of course. 7. This. most researchers are keenly aware that claims they – 48 – .”2 The fact that an inordinate number of different sets of beliefs and desires can all generate the same behavior is the central reason for the precariousness of belief ascription using the behavioral strategy alone. While those engaged in qualitative research seldom explicitly acknowledge the problems discussed above. only those that could possibly cause the behavior we observe. Finding that the chief actually ended up taking a more docile lover in the next village would confirm each of these other hypotheses just as much as it confirms Mead’s “left in search of a more docile wife” ascription. Because he believed that he was not really good enough for Manita. Because he believed Manita would show more interest in marrying him. .

is an attempt to enhance behavioral strategies by increasing the number of behavioral observations made. then. Pepinsky (1980) claimed that the officers he was working with once singled out a car to pull over because they believed that the driver was an American Indian. But it is easy to see how environmental strategies can be bedeviled by problems of knowing about the presence and absence of surrounding beliefs. What most of such methods boil down to. in hopes of increasing the likelihood that the beliefs they ascribe are more than idle speculation. however. When we use such strategies. we use the information that people have been exposed to certain environments to infer that they now hold certain beliefs. that such attempts do not enable one to get around the fundamental epistemological limitations of the behavioral strategy. take on many different roles and observe people in numerous different settings in order to see behavior in a wide realm of situations (Agar 1980. They would only come to such a belief if they didn’t also have the belief that other locals were fond of dressing up as Indians or if they were too nearsighted to take in ethnic identities at a glance. for example. Whether one is talking about one observed behavior or ten. the same problems of plausible alternatives will still be present. A translator is similarly aided in his ascription of the belief that rain is coming to the native who utters. But the officers could form this belief only if they also knew what an American Indian was and which features were Indian rather than Chicano or Chinese. are employed by practicing ethnographers who use behavioral strategies in their work.” and his consequent translation of this as “rain’s coming” by seeing that the native is looking at storm clouds. Increasing the amount of observed behaviors of various sorts is certainly something to be applauded and. it is the case that which beliefs will be formed in a given environment also depends on which other beliefs someone holds at the time. and they may well have had this belief. It must be noted. 1980. no doubt. Just as determining which beliefs cause a behavior depends on making assumptions about which other auxiliary beliefs are present. however.3 Environmental Strategies The basic idea behind environmental strategies is that exposure to certain natural and social environments tends to cause people to form certain beliefs.Translation and Belief Ascription make about people’s internal states are more problematic than claims they make about directly observable behavior. One can. Cahill 1987). and despite the variety of behaviors observed. “jhar suru garchu. Many techniques. During his study of police patrols. Pepinsky was certainly in a position to see what the officers saw. greatly increases the accuracy of our belief ascriptions by enabling us to eliminate conjectures that are inconsistent with these further observations. Carpenter et al. – 49 – . for example. helping to cause the behavior.

which prevents us from positing various and sundry logically possible belief-desire combinations (see Hollis 1982).Todd Jones To be able to ascribe a belief to a person on the basis of his environment. These difficulties are especially notable when we are dealing with alien cultures. At the same time. to start out assuming that a “bridgehead” of beliefs is there. however. The worry is that one can either regress infinitely. or as the result of certain environmental conditions. given the fundamental limits we’ve been discussing? And if there are steps we take in our everyday lives to achieve this success. To know what these other beliefs are. we need to know what other surrounding auxiliary beliefs are also present. – 50 – . The “Makeshift” Solution – Using One’s Self Ascribing beliefs to others on the basis of their behavior or environmental exposure is fraught with fundamental epistemological difficulties. but all the same problems exist for ascribing beliefs within a culture. in other words. When we walk down a city street on a busy afternoon. we typically ascribe dozens of beliefs and desires to the people around us. If we can safely assume the existence of this bridgehead of neighboring beliefs. Surely we must be successful in our endeavors a good deal of the time. our inferences about what beliefs must result from environmental circumstances will correspondingly lack firm support. or we would never be able to coordinate our activities with others. We need. proposing auxiliaries without any real evidential support. we must assume the presence of still other particular auxiliary beliefs that help to form the auxiliaries in question. With such assumptions about which auxiliary beliefs are present lacking firm support. providing a “makeshift” solution to the problems described above. belief ascription is one of our most ubiquitous human activities. and we can begin to infer what the unknown beliefs in question must be. If we start out knowing that a certain set of beliefs and desires must be there. surely translators could also use such methods to make successful ascriptions to their subjects. In our everyday lives there do seem to be some ways of getting an initial bridgehead of beliefs whose existence we can be confident about. Trying to translate alien speech by looking to the surrounding environment to enable you to discover which beliefs lie behind the verbal utterances has the same problems. then we know some of the particular conditions existing which interact with general patterns of belief formation and behavior production. then there is a much smaller possibility space of what other beliefs must be present to produce some set of behaviors. There is a “makeshift” solution that people-watchers can use to try to overcome the problems described above. or one can circularly recruit some of the original proposed beliefs that these other auxiliaries were themselves supposed to help justify. How are we able to have so much success in navigating the social world.

this provides a pretty good indication that these thoughts are what appear in their minds in such situations (see Gordon 1986. If others’ minds indeed work like ours do.Translation and Belief Ascription The behavioral and environmental strategy are ways of trying to infer the existence of unobservable factors using some (at least rough) theories of belief formation and behavioral production and lots of observations. are generally assumed to be the same ones that we would form in these circumstances (see Stich and Nichols 1997). then. both inside and outside our culture. and about the types of beliefs and desires people tend to have. We may not be able to see inside other people’s heads – but we actually can see inside the heads of people who seem to be very much like them: ourselves. Whatever the details of how we go about actually ascribing beliefs to others. to tell us what primary beliefs are there. instead of using our observations of others to try to justify the positing of auxiliary beliefs one by one. We do not need to establish all of these with the intensive unending empirical investigations – 51 – . gets us into trouble. then even without knowing much about perceptual mechanisms or about others’ surrounding beliefs. and the simulation is a realistic one. We could infer what others’ beliefs and desires are like by using analogy in several ways. What they are trying to communicate when they speak is likely to be the same things we believe and would try to communicate. or about the various primary and surrounding beliefs and desires they hold. Davies and Stone 1995).) But an additional way that scientists and lay people alike typically try to understand the nature of unobserved factors. we tend to make a blanket default assumption that the relevant surrounding interacting beliefs held by others in a given situation are similar to those that we have – unless there are specific reasons to believe otherwise. we can use ourselves as models both of what prior beliefs exist and which beliefs get formed in certain circumstances. we know what they are likely to believe and desire in particular circumstances. One proposal found in the belief-ascription literature is that we attribute beliefs by performing a kind of simulation. When using such theories to ascribe beliefs to others. besides knowing theories and conditions. Which beliefs others will form on the basis of certain environmental exposure and certain previously held beliefs. (Our lack of knowledge about the particular conditions – other beliefs – that we need to conjoin with these theories. All one has to do to see what they believe is to physically put oneself in their position – or imagine oneself in the other’s position – and then check to see what beliefs and desires pop into one’s own mind. They believe the same things we would be believing in those circumstances. Goldman 1989. is through the use of analogy. Other philosophers and psychologists have proposed that in ascribing beliefs to others we do make use of vague theories about how minds work. think a lot like we do. If we can assume that others. Ascribing beliefs in this way requires very little prior knowledge about how people’s minds work. it is clear that if others really are like us. however.

“We have no reason to assume either that other peoples’ schemes of conventional metaphor are more deeply expressive of cosmological schemes than our own or that their ‘cultural models’ are more uniform than ours. The linguist Heine for example restudied the Ik. In everyday English. Our familiarity with this convention means that none of our compatriots takes this verbal behavior to signal an underlying belief that chance or decision-making works this way. and that others are often indeed a lot like us. It is likely that one of the main reasons we are as successful as we are at belief ascription is that we do use ourselves as models. is that less familiarity with the linguistic conventions and the surrounding beliefs gives them more difficulty with inferring what the underlying beliefs really are when they hear such possibly metaphorical phrases. Self-knowledge and simulation are not enough. Similarly. “The danger of our constructing nonexistent metaphysical schemes that seem to be implied by conventional metaphors but would be meaningless or absurd to native speakers if they could read what we write about them raises ethnographic nightmares for me. even in what seems like very straightforward perceptual situations.Todd Jones required by the behavioral and environmental strategies. an anthropologist could not tell how Western airplanes were perceived by Melanesian “cargo cultists” just by looking up at the planes and introspecting. for example. or that Captain Cook was believed to be the god Lono.” writes anthropologist Roger Keesing. however. None of Captain Cook’s men. A worry for translators. is that often the people whose language we want to translate hold beliefs that are quite different from our own. it is quite permissible for us to talk using words that seem to imply we believe that luck is a person determining the outcome of games of chance (Keesing 1985) or that we make decisions with our stomachs (see also Lakoff and Johnson 1980). a vast knowledge of the native belief system is often needed to know what natives believe.” Such nightmarish inaccurate attributions do not seem to be uncommon. People interested in ascribing beliefs to exotic peoples and translating their utterances can also be thrown off the track by a lack of familiarity with the local conventions about when it is permissible to make assertions using non-literal metaphorical language. were in any position to know by introspection that the Hawaiian natives saw their ship as carrying a forest. however. Problems for Using the “Makeshift” Solution in Exotic Translation Cases A central problem for the kind of belief ascription a translator needs to do. for example. – 52 – . In exotic cases. a tribe now well known to the world through the ethnographic writings of Colin Turnbull. We can’t assume we can uncover the beliefs of exotic people just by imagining what we would believe were we in their shoes. Heine writes.

But no matter how fully nativized an ethnographer may become through participant observation. The word abang means “my father” and in no way refers to “ancestors” or “ancestral spirits. This is hardly surprising since gor (more precisely gur) is the Ik word for heart which is occasionally used to mean “spirit. 167) claims. . And even if the ethnographer somehow manages to become completely nativized. the problems are less epistemological than metaphysical.or herself to the same unsure ground that people are on in ascribing beliefs to people in one’s own culture. What makes a particular mental state the belief that p.” “soul. a potential translator’s troubles would not be over. More observation.Translation and Belief Ascription We are told . (Heine 1985). It rests somewhere in the vicinity of the stomach . Similarly. Once the beliefs underlying a speaker’s utterances have been understood. On the communication end. . is often far less helpful for uncovering beliefs in alien cultures. Most contemporary philosophers assume a “functional role” theory of what gives a belief (at least part of) its content. and more participation in the exotic culture. Self-introspection. such a belief does not count as the belief that p. then. We are further informed that “A soul is round and red but it has no arms or legs. if what makes some mental state the belief that p is partly a function – 53 – . This task of trying to communicate by giving intentional characterizations of the native beliefs also leads to fundamental problems. will certainly enhance knowledge of linguistic-behavior conventions and perhaps allow one to “think more like a native” oneself.” (Turnbull 1974: 161). which “flies past the moon that is good and the sun that is bad. and thinks and talks just like the natives do. Stephen Stich argues that a consequence of this view is that when the surrounding network of beliefs that a mental state interacts with is very different from that of the mental state we typically call “the belief that p. . even if he or she could somehow overcome these problems. is the way in which that belief interacts with the rest of a person’s beliefs and with perception and behavior. .” as Turnbull (1974: 153. Problems in Communicating Exotic Beliefs Difficult as it is to correctly ascribe beliefs to exotic peoples. the soul. because these relationships define the belief. he or she is likely to always make errors due to interference from old ingrained western ideas about the significance of some external item. while making it easier to ascribe beliefs in one’s own culture. or the likely source of behavior. a translator also has the task of communicating what these speech-generating beliefs are. that there is gor. however. a strange idea to the Ik.” That gor is able to fly to the stars where the abang live is. and on to the stars where the abang have their eternal existence” (Turnbull 1974: 161). he or she has only elevated him.” then. The exacerbation of the belief-ascription problems stemming from the unfamiliarity of other cultures can certainly be lessened the more experience one has with the exotic culture.

then it does not count as a belief that there is an elephant in front of him. If a subject’s mental state does not interact with other mental states in a pattern which approximates the pattern exhibited by our own conditional beliefs. asserting: – 54 – . . . we cannot clearly say what those beliefs are. however. None of this is possible. or if their beliefs dynamically interact with each other in ways different than our beliefs do. different sorts of belief states than ones we’d characterize with the English phrase “the belief that p. for any English characterization implicitly claims that the belief characterized this way is linked to a particular set of other beliefs in the ways that these beliefs are typically linked in our culture – linkages that may well not be there in the alien culture. then these differences make alien mental states. for he claims that the quite normally endowed male and female couple. When we ask about John’s beliefs about sexuality. John and Mary are homosexuals. essentially. If we want to have an intentional characterization of a subject’s mental states. (1990: 47) Our intuitions that the contents of a truly alien belief state cannot be characterized by an English sentence are particularly strong when we consider other types of case in which the network of beliefs that a particular mental state interacts with (what Stich calls the doxastic surround) is different from the network of beliefs surrounding our mental states.” The central problem for describing the beliefs of exotic people is that if they have beliefs surrounded by networks of other beliefs that are very different from ours. . however.” Indeed. unless the subject’s beliefs and desires.Todd Jones of how a belief interacts with other beliefs in the process of inference. no English characterization will suffice. it does not count as a conditional belief. then a belief existing in a cognitive economy that produced very different inferences than our beliefs would should also be unable to be characterized as “the belief that p. if a subject’s mental state is not caused by stimuli similar to the ones which lead me to believe there is an elephant in front of me. Stich asks us to consider the case of John who is told he has latent homosexual tendencies and who accepts this diagnosis. Stich argues that if a person’s beliefs interact with each other and with external stimuli in ways different from the ways our beliefs interact with each other. we must be able to determine whether eating chocolate ice cream is the object of one of his desires. we must be able to say that certain of his beliefs are (or are not) about elephants. writes Stich. Similarly. and if it does not interact with other mental states in a way similar to the way mine would. . we must be able to identify certain of his beliefs as conditionals and others as disjunctions. we find that they are quite bizarre. . Consider the case of someone whose beliefs in a given realm interact with each other differently and cause different inferences than the mental states we usually term “the belief that p” and “the belief that q” do in our culture. and the pattern of causal interactions with each other and with stimuli are reasonably similar to our own .

but sometimes they are not . they are both female. (1983: 138–9) If Stich’s claims about these cases are correct. in these cases we are dealing with beliefs with a doxastic surround that is radically different from the doxastic environment of any of our beliefs. Maleness and femaleness are basic irreducible properties of people. When people use the belief labels associated with a particular doxastic surround in our culture to characterize the mental states of an alien person. The doxastic surround of [his] belief – his theory of sexuality – is sufficiently different from the doxastic surround of the belief that we might express with the same sentence. despite their anatomy. I know John and Mary quite well and I am convinced that. the mental states in question here is likely to function very differently than the mental state that we expect to be there on the basis of that English characterization. Nor is there any other content sentence available in our language which folk intuition would clearly find appropriate in this case. there is simply no saying. These properties are often correlated with anatomical differences. . Any English sentences we’d use to attribute particular beliefs to them would lead our compatriots to think that the natives have mental states surrounded by the kind of belief networks that surround our mental states characterized by such sentences. so no children will result from their sexual relations. homosexual acts never result in pregnancy. when the question is raised without some specific context in mind. What is it that John believes when he says “I have latent homosexual tendencies?” Writes Stich.Translation and Belief Ascription What sex a person is is not a function of anatomy. there is clearly a problem for anthropologists and other translators when they try to make claims about the beliefs and utterances of exotic peoples with very different beliefs or thinking patterns from ours. Of course. we would still have the same problem. and that every relative of a witch is also a witch. Even with a less exotic claim like “Cohen believed he was owed five times the value of the merchandise stolen from him by the robbers’ tribe” (Geertz 1973: 8). How are we to characterize the precise contents of the beliefs of Azande tribesmen who make statements that we translate as saying that all the Azande are related. With a different doxastic surround. we are surely dealing with ideas that have a doxastic surround that is unlike the network of assumptions surrounding our own beliefs. but that some but not all Azande are witches (Evans-Prichard 1937: 24)? What do the Nuer believe when they make a claim that we try to translate as “twins are birds” (EvansPrichard 1956)? What do the Bororo believe when they make a claim translated as “we are red Macaws” (Lévy-Bruhl 1926)? Surely. they are prevented from – 55 – . Yet if we tried to attribute a belief using any other of our content-sentences. . For the concept of “owing” and the related concept of “compensation” will be linked to beliefs in the alien culture that are different in our belief-networks. that it is just not clear whether or not his belief counts as the belief that he has latent homosexual tendencies.

and assuming that they can describe the beliefs of others by identifying them with mental states from this familiar model. we must be able to uncover and communicate their beliefs.Todd Jones accurately conceptualizing this native belief in terms of the doxastic surround typically assumed to be there by those in the native culture. If we don’t really know how to characterize the beliefs of the person from our own culture with odd beliefs about sexuality. Very few disciplines are concerned to uncover only generalizations about the mental lives of people like ourselves. Relying on these models may work well enough when we are talking about people like ourselves whose minds really do work according to the way the model says they should. including the sex act itself. Translators communicate information about others’ beliefs to a target audience by assuming that the members of this audience possess a certain model of which mental states do what (based on themselves). To understand others’ beliefs. Functional Role Descriptions of Mental States It is important to note that the problems described above should not be thought of as unique to anthropology or translation studies. Psychologists often investigate the mental lives of very young children. Translators typically try to uncover unknown beliefs by gathering information on behavior and environment. There are many areas of study that are interested in uncovering and describing the mental states responsible for behavior. All of the same problems of belief ascription should surely pop up in these cases as well as among the Yanamamo. and of monkeys or rats. I have argued that there are serious difficulties inherent in the ways we usually try to do both. of psychotics. These theories/models won’t work for uncovering or describing mental states when the states in question do not function like ours. and figuring out what unknown “missing variable” beliefs must be there. If translating the statements of exotic people involves uncovering and communicating their beliefs. we seem to rely on a rough particularistic model/theory of what beliefs are there and how they function: they work pretty much like they do in our own cases. phantom activities of a phantom body in which the true body is not involved” (Ekvall 1964: 70). how can we hope to be able to say clearly what Tibetans believe about lamas having sex when they say that “all the details of the affair. One Way of Resolving these Problems Let us take stock. are an illusion. The problems seem to stem from the same source. using our minds as models. Many of these areas would suffer from the same problems described above if they tried to describe mental states using English-language belief-content sentences. The same is true for artificial-intelligence researchers – 56 – .

A physical computer is a machine configured in a way such that certain physical states are set up to combine with and produce other states in ways that mirror the specified relations and sequences in the abstract formal system it is instantiating. in this approach. The various “data structure items” or “tokens” that the brain computes with are neurological states. Ned Block (1980). is unimportant for describing how thinking works. In the view of philosophers like Stich. and Hartry Field (1977). mental states are individuated on the basis of how these states interact with surrounding mental states. In a formal system there are syntactic rules specifying the ways in which some tokens can combine with other tokens to produce certain resulting “legal” token sequences. with inputs and with outputs. The computational paradigm assumes that the brain is one such physical machine that instantiates complex formal systems. Much of contemporary cognitive psychology subscribes to what is known as the computational paradigm. the computational paradigm is committed to the view that what determines the nature of any particular mental state is the way that these states are positioned to interact with the other mental states within the cognitive system. It seems to me that contemporary cognitive psychology is a subdiscipline that has come to be structured in a manner that enables the kinds of problem described above to be bypassed. When mental states are individuated in this manner. Describing someone’s thinking.” Stich. one needn’t rely on English language content characterizations to identify which mental states are which. Such states can thus be identified by the relations they have with the other states in the formal system that they instantiate. so long as the neurological states involved interact with other neurological states in ways that mirror the syntactic rules of the formal system that the computing brain is supposed to be instantiating. A computer is a physical instantiation of a formal system. In much of cognitive psychology. The central assumption of the computational paradigm is that the mind is a kind of computer. in terms of each state’s role in a cognitive economy. like – 57 – . In Stich’s view. While the problems discussed above should manifest themselves most severely in certain types of cultural anthropology. the great advantage of describing mental states using cognitive science’s computational vocabulary is that this allows us to more efficiently describe peoples’ thought processes by “eliminating the middleman. Are there ways that such disciplines have managed to avoid these problems. is analogous to describing the way a mechanical computer program interacts with and transforms various data structure items in response to inputs.Translation and Belief Ascription investigating how to get machines to think and understand. Robert Cummins (1983). ways that those interested in translation should pay attention to? Let us look first at the issue of communicating and describing exotic mental states. they have the potential to cause havoc in various disciplines investigating the mind. however. Knowing the exact physical makeup of the neurological states involved in the computation.

in part. (1983: 158) A functional-role computational description. will lead people to think they do interact with surrounding states the way our beliefs do. Instead. we characterize such states in a relatively quick and dirty way by labeling them as being states that are similar to the internal states that lead us to sincerely assert p. Stich writes. however. With the computational paradigm. When we want to identify which belief we are talking about. this type of characterization. specifying the numerous causal connections this mental state has to other states (and to input and behavior). we are able to characterize the cognitive state of a subject in terms appropriate to the subject rather than in terms that force a comparison between the subject and ourselves. the computational paradigm lets us identify mental states by directly specifying these states’ roles in the native cognitive economy (once we uncover what that is. But we can avoid giving people such misleading characterizations of alien mental states if we eliminate the “middleman move” in which we specify the connections by comparing these states to our own states and the connections they have. using methods discussed below). They may also not interact with each other to produce the same inferences. as we have seen. And this eliminates the central problem of [intentional ascription]. becomes very problematic when we use it to describe the thinking of people different from ourselves. however. we don’t do it in a long-winded manner. What we think of as the content of a belief is determined. Giving these alien mental states English characterizations. With a computational description like this. Instead. gives us a fine-grained and flexible way of describing the dynamics of other peoples’ mental states. by the way that this mental state interacts with other surrounding mental states. It is that state that interacts with other states in the same way that the state which causes me to assert p interacts with its neighbors. We can do this instead of having to say “Majid believes that p” which leads others to assume that Majid is in a mental state that really interacts with the particular surrounding belief network in the way that the hearer’s “belief that p” does. we can directly say things like “then Majid will go into mental state y” where y has been defined in terms of its actual doxastic surround and its role in inference producing. in other words.” we are saying that the person the belief is being attributed to is in a mental state similar to the one I would be in were I to sincerely assert p (Stich 1990: 48). While characterizing a mental state this way enables us to understand lots about its connections with other mental states quickly. Giving it this label enables us to tell what kind of state it is and what connections it has with other states in one fell swoop. since there is no risk of generalizations being lost when subjects are so different from us that folk psychology is at a loss to describe them. as – 58 – .Todd Jones Quine (1960) believes that when we characterize a belief by giving it the label “the belief that p. The problem is that the mental states of exotic people may well not have the kind of doxastic surround that our beliefs which we label “the belief that p” have.

behavior. So what we might be tempted to term “the belief that p” among the Ifaluk isn’t really the same kind of mental state as the one we call “belief that p” among ourselves at all. and the behaviors it tends to cause. is structured in a way that enables researchers to avoid the problems associated with characterizing mental states with ordinary intentional descriptions. Lutz. then. would claim that if the Ifaluk really think quite differently from us. for example. by characterizing Ifaluk mental states more directly through functional-role descriptions. Lutz claims that Ifaluk thinking in a certain realm differs drastically from the way we think about this realm in the West and seeks to describe these differences. By directly describing mental states in terms of their relations to perceptual inputs. we can avoid using a vocabulary that forces all cognitive agents to be described as if they think like us or that is unable to describe their mental life at all. Functional-Role Strategies in Anthropology It seems to me that anthropologists often manage to avoid the types of intentionalascription problem discussed by philosophers by using a strategy that is substantively similar to cognitive psychology’s functional-role approach. whose causal relations with other mental states are pre-specified as having the connections with the specific doxastic surrounding states of our cognitive economy. A good example of the similarity between anthropological approaches to belief ascription and the kind of functional-role approach used in cognitive psychology can be seen in Catherine Lutz’s works on emotion terms used among the Ifaluk people of Micronesia. Instead. Lutz appears to do a credible job telling us how the Ifaluk think about emotions. recall. there is no way we can characterize Ifaluk thinking by saying “the Ifaluk believe p. Nevertheless. I believe that the way she is able to do this. seeks to directly identify a mental state in terms of how it interacts with perception. Lutz explicitly avoids using direct English translations to describe how the Ifaluk are thinking.4 Like many anthropologists. Navy film because of the fago she feels for them. instead. The computational paradigm. tells us of an Ifaluk woman who doesn’t want to look at the people she sees in a U.Translation and Belief Ascription opposed to the coarse-grained intentional descriptions. Numerous philosophers. is by avoiding “middleman” intentional ascriptions based on comparison to our own supposedly similar mental states and. This strategy. She – 59 – . she talks about Ifaluk thinking by beginning with the terms that the natives use for conceptualizing what is going on in a given realm. however. in that realm. the other mental states it tends to lead to.S. behavioral outputs and other mental states. These native terms are then explicated by carefully describing the typical perceptual situations that lead to this state.” The holistic network of thoughts we assume to be there interacting with the type of mental state we label “the belief that p” will not be the network in Ifaluk minds. despite intentionalascription difficulties. and other mental states.

A calm maluwelu person is gentle. and sadness). – 60 – . avoiding scaring or offending others. The Ifaluk will regularly tell each other stories in which they freely and shamelessly admit how metagu they were in certain situations. we should not think of metagu as really being what we mean by fearful. Lutz tells us. Lutz tells us. by preventing them from becoming ker. What is a bad state to be in. the term maluwelu is closely related to the Ifaluk term metagu – which means something like afraid or anxious. The Ifaluk do not think of this as we think of happiness.g. the metagu state is regarded by the Ifaluk as a highly desirable state that it is not bad to be in. is one that the Ifaluk call ker. Lutz also reports on an Ifaluk man criticizing his brother’s persistent drinking by saying “you do not fago my thoughts” (1985: 120). though. but it includes an emphasis on moral condemnation directed at social taboo-breaking that is lacking in Western notions of anger. Drunk Ifaluk sometimes say they fago themselves. Ifaluk thinking and terminology is instead explicated by describing how these ideas function in Ifaluk conceptualizations of their social worlds. Calmness is not something that stems at all from inner confidence. One must keep children in line. for example. for example. but rather more from inner fearfulness. One does this by showing them that you are song about their behavior. A maluwelu person is one a Westerner might think of as calm. Being metagu is seen as a state that prevents one from being offensive and boastful. is not really what we mean by “calmness” in the West. however. By giving us a series of rich contextualized examples. when an Ifaluk woman may think that another woman is maluwelu. Ifaluk men are said to feel fago for their drunken compatriots. We slowly build up a sense of when Ifaluk people will and won’t see someone as feeling fago.Todd Jones goes on to talk of fighting brothers being separated and asked why they aren’t showing fago for each other. and 2) to name Englishlanguage terms that we should specifically avoid thinking of the Ifaluk concept (e. But calmness among the Ifaluk. The notion of misbehavior. for unlike our notion of timid or fearful. Lutz tells us. however. as when fago is described in terms of an amalgam of what we would call compassion. timid and shy. Indeed. When English terminology is introduced. Lutz writes. it is not done as a translation of Ifaluk thinking but instead serves 1) to quickly get us into the general ball-park ‘genus’ functional role that this concept is playing. Disobedience among children. Song. Lutz slowly and carefully makes clear just how the Ifaluk are conceptualizing each others’ emotions and behaviors when they speak of them using the term of fago. Lutz discusses. A ker state is something like happiness or excitement. “is both tolerated and even positively sanctioned if it derives from the timidity associated with being calm” (1987: 112). is one that must be explicated carefully in terms of its place in the network of Ifaluk ideas and not just translated into a Western counterpart. However. love. however. is something like anger. itself. for they see it as invariably leading to raucous misbehavior. and how the fago concept interacts with other central Ifaluk ideas.

which directly characterizes mental states in terms of their place in a detailed holistic causal network. Lutz’s anthropological approach. This is just the way mental states are characterized in cognitive psychology. I believe that this approach to translation is certainly superior to one that seeks to find English equivalents for native terms. of course. by showing how vast numbers of other Ifaluk notions are bound up in their use. Michael Silverstein describes how it is highly commonplace for anthropologists to deal with “untranslatable” by doing just what Lutz does – using the native term and giving long ethnographic descriptions of the context of use for this term. As in cognitive psychology. – 61 – . culture. in part.). is essentially the functional-role strategy. in which a mental state is named according to its supposed similarity with one of our labeled mental states. but to teach us anew the polysemic senses of the native terms in a manner analogous to the way in which priests are expected to make sense of exotic doctrines to their flocks. maluwelu and other Ifaluk notions are explicated by Lutz. Below. avoiding the philosophical intentional-ascription problems in roughly the same manner. “middleman” intentional descriptions. in his Chapter 8 of this volume. Making Anthropological Functional Role More Precise In the last section I discussed the heretofore unnoticed similarities between certain approaches in anthropology and functional-role approaches in cognitive psychology. are avoided. The meaning of a term like maluwelu is further explicated by Lutz describing numerous types of perceptual situation in which someone would be labeled maluwelu or not labeled maluwelu. imaginatively describes this process of making the native term clear where the point is not to substitute our familiar terms for native unfamiliar ones. Ifaluk thinking about maluwelu persons is described here by characterizing how it is that such thoughts interact with other thoughts (and behavior.Translation and Belief Ascription Here. Benson Saler. etc. In his Chapter 3 contribution to this volume. I describe another “functionalist” approach that I believe could work even better. This “thick description” approach to translation. has a long history in anthropology. The ideas underlying Ifaluk utterances are thus described more accurately. As Rosman and Rubel point out in Chapter 11 of this volume. Malinowski himself wrote of words that can only be translated “not by giving their imaginary equivalent – a real one obviously cannot be found – but by explaining the meaning of each of them through an exact Ethnographic account of the sociology. She also describes the types of behavior the Ifaluk would engage in toward someone that they thought of as maluwelu. and tradition of that community “ (1923: 300). (They also point out that Malinowski often did not practice what he preached). Her “translations” are not done by describing the ideas and mental states underlying Ifaluk utterances using English belief sentences.

By incorporating precise models of mental structures into their work.Todd Jones However. is interested in which ideas typically interact with what other items in the belief networks of members of a particular culture. functionalrole-oriented anthropologists would be able to greatly increase the plausibility of any claim that their subjects were likely to be in particular mental states at any given time. They would be able to make such claims. This sort of work is already going on in what is sometimes called cognitive anthropology (see for example Hutchins 1980. they might easily suggest new models of human cognition that better explain the – 62 – . to recurrently recount the same religious explanations for certain types of event (Jones 1987). In my own work. Wyer and Srull 1986). By contrast. not only by using their knowledge of which particular kinds of thing have come to be mentally associated with each other in that culture. don’t work very well. Colby 1985). I have looked at how universal cognitive constraints (as described by Anderson 1983) in the formation and retrieval of knowledge lead Tibetans. for example. created by plugging particularistic information about native knowledge into general models of human cognition. most give little thought to the kinds of mechanism needed to enact these kinds of mental-state linkage. The benefits of moving in the direction of more detailed and precise models of the native thinking would not likely be all one-sided. but he shows little interest in examining the details of the kind of architecture needed to enable these mental states to interact with one another in particular ways. Such anthropologists seem content with the idea that these mental states have some sort of associative connection where some thoughts somehow “call up” other thoughts. often implementable as a computer program. cognitive psychologists usually specify fairly precise theories. This provides an account for why certain ideas and actions stereotypically occur as they do in Tibetan culture. about the kinds of mental structure that have to be in place in order to produce such inferences (see for example Anderson 1983. In making a claim that a person will tend to go into a certain mental state in certain circumstances. Cognitive psychologists have long been very interested in the particular mechanisms by which certain mental states are formed and certain inferences made. there are numerous differences in the research foci of the two approaches as well. An anthropologist such as Geertz. one should not overlook the fact that. One of the chief differences is the level of precision sought in describing and modeling peoples’ mental activities. growing up in the environments they do. If anthropologists find that models of native thinking. but also by using a knowledge of what general types of mentally associated item tend to be activated in a mental economy at what times. currently. while some anthropologists are very interested in which kinds of inference and association are produced at what times as we have seen. I believe that “thick description” of this sort could be made more precise and more accurate if such anthropologists incorporated specific computational models into their functional-role descriptions of mental-state interconnections.

can be described in terms of the syntactic properties and relations of the abstract objects to which the cognitive states are mapped. on this view. I believe this is illusory. rather than by. however. (1983: 149) What characterizes a particular mental state. . . What it would look like would depend even more heavily. semantic content plays little role in explaining native thinking using anthropological functional-role approaches. What such a more precise functional-role-oriented anthropology would ultimately look like. If this is right. Lutz’s work seems to explain what tends to happen in the mental lives of her subjects by giving complex descriptions of the contents of their mental states. is what mental states do. In my view. holds that the defining criterion of being a particular mental state is based on the way in which that state interacts with other mental states. even their current vague form. like many theories in cognitive science. the fat-syntax view of cognition is the most natural approach to adopt. not what they are about. and integrated with other new ideas about cognition.Translation and Belief Ascription thinking of the people studied. of course. the idea is that causal relations among cognitive states mirror formal relations among syntactic objects. What makes it a “fat” syntax is that the state’s relations to stimuli and behavior are as essential to its characterization as its relation to other internal inference-producing states. say. the fat-syntax view holds that no attention needs to be paid to the semantic evaluation of mental states. as well as causal links with stimuli and behavioral events. The fat-syntax view of mental functioning. would depend on which models of the various proposed internal cognitive mechanisms would be used. however. These new proposed models could then be tested with other populations. Indeed. neurological characteristics or phenomenal “feel. is not the semantic content of that state but the way it syntactically interacts with other syntactic relationally-defined states. This claim may seem surprising. Stich describes the fat-syntax view this way: The basic idea .” Unlike many cognitive theories. If functional-role-oriented anthropological approaches were to develop in more precise ways which made them more akin to functional-role theories in cognitive psychology. the most natural approach for anthropologists interested in describing the mental states of exotic people to use is one that Stich terms the “fat syntax” view of cognition. is that cognitive states whose interaction is (in part) responsible for behavior can be systematically mapped to abstract syntactic objects in such a way that causal interactions among cognitive states. then. I would claim that these anthropological descriptions of the mental are more easily seen as – 63 – . What’s important in theories of cognition. After all. in this view. More briefly. on which of the various general formulations of cognitive functional-role theory was adopted. On closer inspection. Cognitive psychology would then derive some benefits from anthropology as well. then it will be natural to view cognitive states as tokens of abstract syntactic objects.

linguistics. 7) causes them to scold the ker people. HIJ. and cognitive psychology] is really a kind of logical syntax (only psychologized)” (1978: 223). On most (non-connectionist) views of cognitive science. Because of a basis in the computational paradigm. the syntactic theory of mind’s most vocal critic. 3) generally leads a typical Ifaluk to go into another internal state KLM.Todd Jones making use of a syntactic theory of the mind (albeit currently in a vague way) than are most other descriptions of mental functioning. it is clear that most functionalrole theories of the mental (not just fat syntax) are largely centered around formal syntactic structuring.” Now it is easy to see how someone could give a syntactic characterization of particular combinations of internal symbol strings. They also. during which small sounds can startle them immensely and has numerous effects on other dispositions. recall. Stich 1983. They would have to make use of ideas about the rules governing state-to-state transitions (the kinds of generalizations most cognitive psychologists spend most of their time trying to uncover). Computer programs are a physical instantiation of a system of formal syntactic rules specifying the ways in which some token entities can combine with other tokens in order to produce certain resulting “legal” token combinations. 4) usually causes them to go into go another internal state. however. which: 1) is often produced when children are seen laughing and chasing each other. even Jerry Fodor. The computational paradigm. 2) is sometime produced when drunken men are seen laughing and singing. to specify some formal rules stating the ways these primitives can be combined into more complex objects. once wrote that “What we’re doing [in AI. 6) causes them to say “those people have become ker” when asked. Cummins 1983). we refer to this sort of thing as “saying what beliefs a person has. and inferential effects for each of these other internal states can also be specified). An anthropologist might describe how there is a mental state EFG. which Ifaluk persons commonly go into. which makes them unlikely to leave the area where the event they’ve been observing is happening. In everyday English. stating which types of new resulting string sequence should be produced at which time (Fodor 1975. Imagine. if the people observed are close to 50 years old or over (typical other causal antecedents. have to be able to give some description of the particular sets of symbol strings that are causing other symbol strings to be produced in a rule-governed way. Indeed. if they have authority over them. – 64 – . behavioral effects. three central tasks of cognitive theories are: to describe a set of primitive symbols. views the mind as a sort of computer. and to specify state-to-state transition rules. that anthropologists began using sophisticated cognitive theories to explain what their subjects are likely to be thinking at certain times. 5) will inferentially produce the mental state NOP. now.

We can show how the state underlying the Nuer assertion is one that they enter when they say that twins are conceived in a special holy manner. We can characterize the mental state underlying the Nuer assertion by saying what kinds of input. who are all related to the witches among them. or result from. They would be described by specifying what they do. because this would contradict their claim that not all the Azande. non-standard inferences are also straightforwardly describable using a fat-syntax approach. when a conceptual constraint on something’s counting as linguistic behavior at all is that most utterances are true (see Davidson 1984). it is problematic because it seems to be wildly untrue. Take a sentence that initially seems to translate as the assertion by Nuer people that “a twin is not a person (ran). rather than by giving a “meaning” or “content” using a substitutable English-language phrase. he is a bird (dit)” (Evans-Prichard 1956: 129). It is a state that. While semantic-centered accounts of thinking seem to be unable to tell us how alien peoples are thinking in difficult cases. output.Translation and Belief Ascription If mental states were described this way by anthropologists. are witches. It is a mental state which can combine with a different state – one which we see has the function of prohibiting kin to harm other close kin – to produce an inferred mental state which underlies an assertion we translate as saying that twins should never eat birds’ eggs. We can’t comfortably ascribe to the Azande the belief that all relatives of a witch are also witches. rather than burying them. A semantic evaluation of this sentence is problematic because there is no sentence we can imagine ourselves sincerely uttering that would have the kind of doxastic inferential links to other beliefs that our utterance of that sentence would require in our language. (Alternatively. so that their souls can depart into the air where they belong. It is not clear which statements – 65 – . the semantics would not really be playing any part in the explanation of the thinking and behavior of the peoples described. if we were to characterize that state merely by using the content sentence that seemed to fit it best. you would have syntactic characterizations of such mental states. Looking at it in terms of it’s entire doxastic surround (which is far richer then merely calling it a “metaphorical belief”) we can also show that it is not a mental state which ever produces the inference that twins can fly – an inference that might be made. in combination with other states. (something like “children of god/spirit”) – a term also used to describe the birds which freely fly through the sky/spirit realm. making them gaat kwoth.) With a syntactic account we don’t have to translate this state by giving some sort of equivalent sentence. Mental states that result in. leads the Nuer to place the bodies of dead twins on platforms. While one might additionally give a description of the content of a mental state to quickly give readers a general heuristic ball-park picture of the mental states. and other mental state syntactically produce and are produced by this state. syntactic characterizations avoid these difficulties.

However useful content-sentence-based or other semantic descriptions of mental states may be in some realms. in the way we would expect a state labeled “witches’ relatives are also witches” would. This is the best way to get at the exotic beliefs that really underlie the utterances we wish to translate. They have proposed various mechanisms for explaining how such perseverance might work (see Nisbett and Ross 1980). It is not clear which content sentences are accurately ascribable to them. syntactic descriptions do a far better job of characterizing the functioning of kinds of mental state anthropologists are interested in. Syntactic characterizations of mental statements seem to show a great deal of promise at precisely the places content-sentence-based ascription fails most strikingly. With a syntactic theory. – 66 – . while at the same time. a completely syntactic version of functional-role theory will be the most useful one to adopt. as no English pair of sentences corresponding to what seems to be the Azande belief pair could normally be sincerely asserted at the same time.Todd Jones they hold true. Moreover. irrespective of what the persevering beliefs are about. The fact that such states can easily be labeled with semantic descriptions that contradict each other is no problem as long as their syntactic characterizations can account for what these people do. however. on the other hand. Slightly more problematic is the explanation of joint perseverance of certain mental states after they have been pointed out as being contradictory in their semantic characterizations. I suggest that. contrary to first impressions. Anthropologists using thick description could most easily extend and make more precise the sort of functional-role characterization they are already engaged in by formulating descriptions of specific mental mechanisms and mental states using the terminology of fat syntax. As most of the mechanisms proposed are very general mechanisms that work. Many cognitive psychologists. chapter 6. so long as there is no mechanism for detecting and eliminating what can be seen as contradictory beliefs – or if there is only a weak mechanism for doing so. If using functional-role theories is indeed the way anthropological descriptions can get around intentional-ascription worries. a different mental state produces actions and inferences etc. have carefully documented that belief perseverance in the face of various contrary evidence of this sort is a remarkably widespread phenomenon. there is nothing implausible about such states coexisting in a single mind. This sort of mental functioning is consequently more easily described using syntactic rather than a semantic characterization. there is little problem giving such mechanisms a completely syntactic characterization (see Stich 1983. there is no problem in holding that the Azande do indeed have mental states we might roughly characterize in this way. We just have to show that there is a mental state (or mental states) that functions in the cognitive economy in a way that the belief that “not all the Azande are witches” would. for an example).

this is an auxiliary desire we can usually count on as being there. then. We could then construct more specific models of particular minds. for example. Instead of ascribing beliefs based on the environmental and behavioral strategies. and 2) some innate desires and desire-forming mechanisms. then observing others’ behavior leads us to infer that the beliefs underlying that behavior must be the beliefs that would produce such behavior in ourselves. the more information we will have about which type of internal structure must be at work producing a particular behavior. Models of associative memory could tell us about the relative importance of the frequency of seeing an example of a category (like dog) and its effects on the likelihood of recalling that particular example when the category is mentioned (as opposed to the effect of other factors like recency. etc. tendency to abstract. Such a strategy will not work to the extent that others’ minds work differently than our own. Presumably. all human beings are born equipped with 1) some innate belief-forming mechanisms and innate beliefs. We would then know more about what particular examples of dogs they are most likely thinking of when they seem to be speaking about dogs. If we know that almost all people desire to avoid sex with close kin. If we use models centered around ourselves as our guides for uncovering belief. And ethnographic research could tell us about the types of dog that natives are likely to most frequently encounter. lots of constraints specifying what could be believed at a given time could come from constraints on the possible ways information can be internally organized. the more restrictions we can put on which beliefs and desires are likely to result from the specific inputs people are receiving from certain environments.Translation and Belief Ascription Using Cognitive Theories in Uncovering Mental States I’ve argued that using cognitive theories could allow belief ascribers and translators to describe and communicate about others’ mental states more effectively than could be done by strategies which use ourselves as models. People also come with some innate mechanisms for putting innate beliefs and desires – and the new ones formed as a result of these mechanisms interacting with the environment – into use at particular times to create new behaviors and thoughts. The more information we have on which general types of structure tend to produce certain behaviors. We would be better at uncovering beliefs. I think the same can be said about uncovering which beliefs or other mental states exotic people hold. we know they’ll have no beliefs about such colors. by starting off with a more universalistic model of mind which specified the sorts of mental states that underlie human behavior in general. Earlier I – 67 – . that people cannot perceive colors beyond a certain wavelength. The more information we have about these general-information-processing and -organizing mechanisms. starting from this universal base. constrained only by a rough selfbased model. If we know.). rather than a model that specifies the sorts of mental states that underlie our own behavior.

In this chapter. like the postmodernists. Some. I’ve argued that a syntactic functional-role cognitive theory is even more able to adequately characterize mental states that are different from our own. I’ve argued that our usual ways of doing this – using models of ourselves to infer that certain mental states are present. interacting with each other in ways that are specified by general (universal) rules of mental interaction. even if a people’s mental states are too different from our mental states to ascribe content sentences to them in the usual way. One can similarly use ideas of what general underlying mental structures must always be there (often organizing more culturally idiosyncratic information) to more adequately uncover which resulting mental states are the ones likely to be generating behavior at a given time. to figure out what beliefs lie behind an act of verbal behavior. in fields ranging from neuroscience to ethology. Concluding Remarks Many scholars have written about the difficulties of translation. Uttering sounds is also behavior. I’ve tried to explain the root cause of these difficulties. of course. have responded to these and other difficulties by nihilistically refusing to attempt to construct correct representations of the thoughts that really lie behind others’ words. A “fat-syntax” cognitive theory can enable us to describe mental states even if they are beyond these similarity-based limits of what’s intentionally describable. These sorts of mental-state constraining model are being studied in the cognitive sciences every day. With thick description. I’ve argued that “thick description” which describes mental states in terms of their overall role in a cognitive economy.” as such a state would be so different from anything labeled the “belief that p” in our language and culture. By behavior. are inherently fraught with epistemological and metaphysical difficulties. and the implicit theory held by many practitioners. sees the act of translating someone’s utterances or inscriptions as centering around uncovering and communicating the beliefs held by the speakers.Todd Jones discussed how one can more adequately describe the mental states underling verbal and non-verbal behavior by showing how these states are the product of particular local ideas. We would be do well to monitor their findings. The act of trying to translate an alien utterance. and using intentional English-language characterizations to say what those are. will be done better by knowing something about the types of cognitive structure that guide and constrain belief-formation. – 68 – . The dominant philosophical theory of translation. I am not merely referring to large-scale physical activity. I believe there are better responses. successful mental-state description need not imply successful intentional ascription and similarity to ourselves. Cognitive diversity beyond a certain point leaves us unable to label anything “the belief that p. gives us a way to characterize mental states.

Translation and Belief Ascription Such an approach also puts us in a better position to adequately uncover the mental states underlying verbal and non-verbal behavior. by itself. is “in the widened sense of the term in which it encompasses much more than talk. beliefs. Anthropology. The failures of positivism has led many to be skeptical of finding firm epistemic foundations for any types of knowledge. Such approaches provide better strategies for uncovering behavior than raw behavioral and environmental strategies constrained only by self-based models. Philosophers use the term “intentional” to refer to descriptions of utterances and actions that involving meanings. can specify how. to converse with them” (1973: 13). The idea that behavioral evidence. But understanding what others believe is certainly an important enough task to be worth exploring with more than our everyday tools. This use of “intentional” is different from its common usage as “on purpose. Why. What we ultimately want from the peoples studied. These – 69 – . with other researchers’ knowledge about the mind. Cognitive psychology can play a role in helping specify the general architecture of human cognition and the ways in which mental states tend to interact with one another. some may protest that the sorts of problem described above are certainly not unique to belief ascription. in a given culture. The nature of belief is such that we may never be sure we know what others are thinking and saying. writes Geertz. indeterminate.” 2. then. making certain types of alteration in the auxiliary premises can enable a different “core” theory to account for the same observations as the previous theory. shouldn’t other sciences be charged with regress or circularity? And scholars from Duhem to Quine to Kuhn have argued that all scientific posits rely on vast interconnected webs of knowledge. in principle. At this point. This example is just a recasting of philosopher Willard Quine’s (1960) famous example. If translators would begin to more fully integrate their vast knowledge of other’s lifeways. 3. along with disciplines like history. and desires. Notes 1. can never really confirm a particular belief ascription is a central idea in his celebrated claim that whether an alien’s cry of “Gavagai” in the presence of a rabbit really means “rabbit” or “undetached rabbit parts” is. we could come much closer to what Clifford Geertz describes as the fundamental goal of studying others. In other sciences. a vast amount of specific information is used by this general cognitive architecture to enable people to perceive and think about the world in the ways that they do.

A consequence of holism is that making changes in the assumptions needed for verifying posits in one domain would require us to alter many well-established views in realms far afield.) It may be that at a given point in time. because of the havoc such alterations would wreak in other realms that relied on our – 70 – . In the telescope example. For example. about certain features of micro-organisms. making alterations in the auxiliaries and comparable alterations in the core theories in ways that produce alternative accounts for the same behavioral evidence can often be done without incurring the high costs one incurs in other sciences. then suggested changes in our premises regarding telescopes would be regarded as changes that come at an unreasonably high price. consequently. should social-scientific belief attribution be thought to be particularly bedeviled by underdetermination and the holistic nature of justification? There are several responses one might have to such worries. then. Bloor 1991). making numerous alterations in our assumptions about optics that balanced each other in a way that ensured our astronomical predictions remained the same would be very costly. Claims that our beliefs about curved lenses were wrong might require us to say that we are wrong in our views about what microscopes show. This is not the situation we face when talking about belief claims. only a single set of theoretical posits can satisfy all of the constraints that these mutually constraining theories impose on them. Another response is to say that the very holism that anti-foundationalists advocate is a feature that actually inhibits the possibility of having numerous alternative theoretical posits in some domains of science. Claims that we are wrong about this distance would require us to claim that our basic observations of telescopes or our beliefs about their powers are wrong. the auxiliaries used to make behavioral predictions here are never auxiliaries supported by direct observation – they are postulated auxiliary beliefs and desires. Collins and Pinch 1985. Beliefs and desires are not the sort of thing that can be directly observed. which could force changes in our views of the powers of lasers. and. (See Laudan 1996 for a full articulation of the argument that while logically possible alterations are always available. Many of these assumptions are well supported by direct observations of telescopes. If our previous views about lasers or micro-organisms are well supported by still other data. claims about the distance between Mercury and Venus have relied on the correctness of numerous auxiliary assumptions about the nature of telescopes. It merely says other sciences have similar problems. rationally possible ones are not.g. One is to agree that all sciences are plagued by these sorts of underdetermination worries. First. Why. This response of course can only agree with my worries about belief ascription. It might force us to change our views on the propagation of light. Second. Many anti-realist philosophers and sociologists take this line (e.Todd Jones possibilities do not make other sciences especially difficult or undoable.

on the other hand. 312–321. Davies.Translation and Belief Ascription knowledge of optics. B. B. J. The Architecture of Cognition. 1987. 1980. or deny any of the postulates that other well-supported sciences rely on. Block (ed. 1985. 1980. MA: Harvard University Press.. the logically possible alterations are rationally possible alterations as well. 269– 290. Urbana. Carpenter. Drugs and Crime. Belief holism is a “within-theory” holism. Colby. contrary to initial appearances. R. 1964. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Elsewhere (Jones 1997). J. R. London: Academic Press.Vol. Cambridge. 1983. C.” Social Psychology Quarterly 50. Keller (ed. Collins. D. B. and Pinch. Cambridge. 4. Religious Observances in Tibet. 1985. unlike in many natural science cases. But there is nothing irrational about making these changes. and Loughlin. I have termed Lutz’s work a “thick description” approach to explicating the meaning of alien terms because of its affinities with Clifford Geertz’s approach. In that work I also argued that. pp. and Stone. Kids. – 71 – . Frames of Meaning: The Social Construction of Extraordinary Science. “Toward an Encyclopedic Ethnography for Use in ‘Intelligent’ Computer Programs”. Lexington MA: Lexington. IL: University of Illinois Press. N. H. Cambridge. “Children and Civility: Ceremonial Deviance and the Acquisition of Ritual Competence. making changes in the auxiliary and core beliefs in ways that keep the same observable predictions does not usually affect our knowledge of matters in other realms at all. In New Directions in Cognitive Anthropology. The only costs that are incurred come from forcing us to make changes in other postulated beliefs. J. “Introduction: What is Functionalism?” In Readings in the Philosophy of Psychology. Cahill. T. With belief ascription. 1991. Ekvall.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. The Nature of Psychological Explanation. The Professional Stranger. M. Anderson. Bloor. T. M. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. Cummins. 1995. Block. N.). 1980. Geertz’s work like Lutz’s has much in common with functionalrole cognitive approaches. Knowledge and Social Imagery.. Changing our postulations about what other beliefs are present does not force us to deny any direct observations. Oxford: Blackwell. Johnson. MA: MIT Press. B. References Agar. MA: MIT Press. 1983. 1. Glassner. S. pp. Here. Mental Simulation: Evaluations and Applications.

New York: Alfred Knopf. Witchcraft. pp. Lutz. Lukes (eds. Goldman. New York: Harcourt Brace. MA: Harvard University Press. Human Inference: Strategies and Shortcomings of Social Judgement. H. Oracles. “Folk Psychology as Simulation. Gordon. 1923. 149–180. R. pp. Ogden and I. University of Illinois.). Mead. 158– 171. R. 1926. Nisbett. Oxford: Oxford University Press. New York: Morrow. 9–61. Crowell.). W. Cambridge. E.” Pragmatics and Cognition 5. Metaphors We Live By. J. 1977.” Mind and Language 1. Hollis. H. Keesing. L. New York: E. 1985. A. New York: Basic. 1987. Martin’s. “The Mountain People: Some Notes on the Ik of Northeastern Uganda. —— Supplement to C. W. 1985. The Language of Thought. 1980. pp. 1980. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. “Mental Representation. – 72 – . “A Sociologist on Police Patrol”. The Interpretation of Cultures.: Prentice Hall. New York: St. MA: MIT Press. G. Fodor. L. Richards. Fat Syntax. NJ. and Johnson. Jones. 1975. 3–16. Malinowski. New York: Thomas Y.. Bronislaw. 1980. Lévy-Bruhl. Geertz.” Africa 55.Turowetz (eds. Word and Object. pp. Argonauts of the Western Pacific. R. L. 1978. and Alternative Conceptual Schemes.” Journal of Anthropological Research 31. 1997. 201–217. R. and Magic among the Azande. Lakoff. 1986.” Cognition 6. In Fieldwork Experience: Qualitative Aproaches to Social Research. 1928. —— “Thick Description. 1982.” MA thesis. Cambridge. and Ross. CO: Westview. 1988. pp. How Natives Think.” Erkenntnis 13(1). pp. “The Social Construction of Reality. and S. Field. P. 1973. Unnatural Emotions. 1956. 131–162. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. —— “Tom Swift and his Procedural Grandmother. B. Stebbins and A. 1937. 1996. M. M. Coming of Age in Samoa. Culture and Inference. 1989. “Conventional Metaphors and Anthropological Metaphysics: The Problem of Cultural Translation. M. “When the Mind Makes the World: An Explanation of the Use of Constructivist Ideas In Tibet. T. Pepinsky. Heine. —— Nuer Religion.” Mind and Language 4. C. M. C. 161– 185. Boulder. Dutton. Englewood Cliffs. Laudan. 1960. Cambridge. Oxford: Clarendon. MA: MIT Press. 1980. Hutchins.Todd Jones Evans-Prichard. A. “Interpretation Psychologized. Quine. Meaning of Meaning. pp. 1961[1922]. Beyond Positivism and Relativism.” In Rationality and relativism. Hollis. K. Schaffir. E.

From Folk Psychology to Cognitive Science. Rationality. Venuti. NY. 322–359. R. Cambridge.” Psychological Review 93. S. L. Cambridge. 1997. The Forest People.Translation and Belief Ascription Stich. Wyer. T. “Translation as a Social Process. S.” Paper presented at conference. The Violence of Translation. 26–28 September. at SUNY Binghamton. and Srull. MA: Bradford. 1990. C. Humanistic Dilemmas: Translation in the Humanities and Social Sciences. 297–326. S. 1974. New York: Simon and Schuster. the Case Against Belief. MA: Bradford. – 73 – . or.” Mind and Language 12. —— The Fragmentation of Reason. 1991. Stich. and Nichols. 1983. “Human Cognition in its Social Context. and Restricted Simulation. pp. 1986. pp. “Cognitive Penetrability. Turnbull.


composed of analytically separable partials of semiosis and hence of kinds of “meaning. But as we move semiotically in increments away from that core. At least in our own European ethnometapragmatic tradition. there is indeed a core of actually translatable semiosis in language. one that anchors the aspirations of bilingual dictionaries and so-called literal translations of expository prose documents. if not slope. not surprisingly. layered ways. which I propose here and hope to elucidate in this discussion. and I conceptualize the gradations here in semiotic terms. Transformation: Skating “Glossando” on Thin Semiotic Ice Michael Silverstein In this chapter I engage the issue of how it is possible to “translate” materials of language. mistaken for grammatical forms!) or booklength verbal discourses. so-called translation theory centers on the ideologically well-trod area of denotational – 75 – . I want to suggest. turns on constructing kinds and degrees of possibility for various aspects of language material. Transduction.” Translation is always a process that begins and ends with textual objects. The Narrowest Concept of “Translation” There is a slippery surface.–3 – Translation. My argument.” even though these interact in complex. that we might therefore label with distinct “t”terms. as isolated. across which one glissandos by attempting the feat of an intercultural ‘gloss’. or “translation. whether word-sized fragments of denotational text (sometimes. For today we recognize that language is in some respects just like other cultural forms. or even otherwise (en)textual(ized) objects in other media and modes. we increasingly are attempting to accomplish cross-linguistic/cross-cultural feats of qualitatively. that is. which must be seen as cultural matter at least as much as – perhaps much more than – strictly denotational expression. let alone quantitatively distinct conceptual sorts. We must therefore recognize that those semiotic partials of language that are cultural in various complex ways indicate different susceptibilities of purported “translation.”1 When and where language conforms most to traditional European ideological construals of it.

who did not cleave to the Boasian yellow brick road. note. on which she would have been guided by structures of obligatory grammatical categories in each language concerned – “source” and “target” – as the building blocks of compositionality! Recall that Quine distinguishes the mere fact of doing a reasonable denotational translation across two arbitrary languages. involves bringing another. and grammatical categories being combined in interesting structural ways in the (Saussurean) ‘sense’ of a word or expression. Even for “language” itself in this purely denotationalist imaginary. of course. As Quine (1960: 28) would say. This means determining what are the implicit or immanent type-level formal distributional relations that map into structures of denotational differentiation. in justifying the “translation” we might propose of some particular expression-token (even in the form of a word or expression) we are concerned with in a text we encounter on some occasion of discourse. But we can clarify Quine’s stricture by saying that if we could solve the problem of what Whorf (1956a [1940]: 214) called the “calibration” of linguistic systems. from systematic or theoretical justification of it. which we do accomplish somehow.” taking an intercultural stab-at-it by in principle unsystematizable commonsense shortcuts. The second step. in effect constructing a framework of universal grammar in terms of denotational categories and their formal codings.Michael Silverstein language and its translatability into other such denotational languages.”) This ideological focus on denotational textuality – coherent language-as-used to represent states-of-affairs involving things-in-universes-of-reference – provides the benchmark as well as starting point for millennia of wishful as well as wistful theorizing about “translation” and its various (im)possibilities. The feat involves. very close by to our starting point in the comfortable confines of perfectly semantically compositional expressions. from well within the ideological focus on denotation. what is principally meant by the natives when they claim for example that they are reading a “translation” of Saussure’s [1916] Cours de linguistique générale “from French into English. there are severe limits to how we can THEORETICALLY justify what we do as interlingual glossers. (This is.4 we are in the area of “radical translation.2 The current fashion seems to be rather uninformed lamentations over impossibilities and headaches of one or another disconstrualist3 or identity-political sort (formulated. “target” denotational code in by in essence proposing a comparison of denotational – 76 – . The following are involved. first. each such regularity of mapping being a grammatical category. then we could provide systematic or theoretical justification for translating an arbitrary expression from one language to another. an ‘entextualization-in-context’ (see Silverstein and Urban 1996). projecting justifiable grammatical categories immanent in the expression-type in the determinable “source” denotational code. though aching to get out). then. Look at where this landed Dorothy on her way to Oz. it should be noted. logically speaking.

Observe that constructing this bridge across languages can only be accomplished in grammatical-categorial space. one would claim. which makes it an instance or token of an underlying or immanent lexical type. and it is only success in this enterprise that permits us to locate approximate lexicalizations of languages in general one with respect to another. Saussurean ‘sense’5 is a component of the “meaning” of any word or expression only by virtue of the fact of grammar.Translation. we can translate (note the directionality:) from one language (in)to another in various zones or regions of grammaticosemantic space. Then there are further considerations of how to narrow the target expression’s denotation (and total meaningfulness) to as precise a scope as can be managed. the English – 77 – . So what. is it safe to assume about real translation? If the entire course of structural theorizing about the denotational use of language has validity – and my own (dare I assert?) professional scholarly opinion is that it does – then we can denotationally “translate” across languages to the extent that we follow these dictates: grammatically projectible words and expressions in denotational text in a source language can be given at least one closest-possible gloss in a target language modulo the grammatical-categorial systems (including lexical semantic categories with distributional correlates) of the two respective languages into which the words and expressions of the denotational texts (source and target) are resolved. such categories are justifiable only to the extent that those of any one particular language come out of the universe of grammatical-categorial types in potentia that underlie all languages. under these assumptions. even though. we can note. then. such ‘sense’s of any word or expression in any source and target languages are expressible as structured complexes of categories of communicable difference-of-denotation. Transformation language-structure with denotational language-structure. it all sounds exceedingly complicated to implement. From this it follows that to the extent all languages are indeed Saussurean systems. this is exactly what is accomplished whenever we implicitly manage to overcome the Quinean impedimenta in an at least retrospectively principled way. can we so guarantee? Because.6 Hence. In respect of the properties of the source-language expression. Why should this be so? Why. reference to the structural possibilities of which is essential in translating. So the third aspect of simple denotational translation is to complete a triangulation. For example. comparing grammatically projectible expression-types in the source language with those in the target language so as to determine a fitting token expression in the target language suitable (on other semiotic grounds) to the translation-occasion. Put this way. And in turn. the point is to find a word or expression in the target language [a] that is centered on or headed by the most categorially encompassing lexicalization possible (from the grammatical categorial point of view) at the same time as [b] it is the narrowest differential one denotationally corresponding to its would-be counterpart in the source language. Transduction.

though Worora ngayu iraaya codes an absolute generational value between its relata. ‘ascending/descending generational difference of one [between relata]’). to be sure. The Worora term. a structured subset – of the denotational range of the Worora one. in the move of “translation” preserving as much as possible of “sense”. is apparently coded in the variations of the Worora noun-stem. + or –. exemplify a specialized semantic subset of inherently interpersonally relational status terms. matches the English term in certain categorial stipulations of the denotatum’s ‘human’ness. signed generational value between the denoted individuables. of Saussurean “sense” allows the identification. (Hence it can be noted. of the initial English term with the target Worora term in that particular direction. though not identity. in order to get the “proper” translation into English. both of my father’s sister and my daughter as denoted for a male possessor are ngayu bamraanja. whom we would expect to be referred to in English by the other person as my son. ‘count’ness.8 And this overlap. from our point of view. then. though clearly the denotational range of the English term is only a subset – though. We can translate English (my) father with a term in another language. only in the case where the “xi”. like those in any language. both that I refer to ‘my father’ as ngayu iraaya and that he so refers to me. (¨1¨vs.7 among others. the situation puts the relationship in the denotational set of a distinctly lexicalized form. ‘anima[te]’cy. etc. that the respective English-language and Worora-language kinterminological “meanings” in their respective systems overlap in the ‘f( . similarly ‘my father’s father’s father’ and my ‘son’s son’s son’. ¨1: ‘generational difference of one [between relata]’ vs.Yj)’. In first. )’ component by the difference of absolute vs. Observe then that the sex of each of the denotata. say Worora (northwestern Australia) (ngayu) iraaya. as my father or my son – not to speak of greater generational distances – even for a denotationally “male( )” possessor. reciprocally also to any male’s first – and 2n+1st – ascending/descending generation patriclan male. And this. Otherwise. even though the actual Worora term is applied RECIPROCALLY by a man and his actual genitor. Note. part of a quasi-“Omaha-type” lexical set.) And note that while a female also terms her actual or classificatory ‘father’ ngayu iraaya.or second-person usage – 78 – . does the Worora expression ngayu iraaya still serve. we must introduce the specific sign. that associated with the possessive element. which is also the coding of the reciprocal relationship by which each of these two people in a ‘fasi’ – ‘brodau’ relationship would denote the other. that were we translating English my son. as well as that of the actual head-noun stem. if present. indexes someone of whom “male( )” is true. and ‘kfa(xi. further. evincing a kind of alternating-adjacent-generation agnatic denotational solidarity. ‘male’ness. Note. the grammatically construed possessor. Were one translating in the direction from Worora to English. these can be shown to be categories at least compatible with the differential (Saussurean) coding structures of the two linguistic systems. insofar as this constitutes part of the Saussurean ‘sense’.Michael Silverstein kinship terms.

. someone with respect to a benefactee/ recipient/addressee. and for the reciprocal kinship relationship. Such terms characterize the status of a particular denotatum in terms of a two-place relational property with respect to membership in a social dyad.10 Kinterms in any language will have much of the formal-distributional and associated sense properties of such Nouns of Agency ascribed to. whence the well-known “relative product” expressions such as John’s father’s sister’s husband’s cousin[’s . we know that in every language kinterms are a subset of status terms (certainly for denotata classifiable as ‘human’ and perhaps for other classes of ‘being’s as well). it is of course the individual in the role of speaker/sender of whom the sex is relevant to proper use of a noun stem – a “pragmatic” or indexical fact in the instance.9 It is important to see the translation task in terms of language forms in two languages that in very different ways code pieces of the denotational differentiations we can recognize as common to the two systems of lexicogrammatical structure. i. i. such as ‘part-whole’ constructions. parallel to (be) baker to [X]. Worora uses a lexical PAIR that codes the comparable denotational range. they iterate possessor coding so as to create complex relational expressions that characterize a denotatum through a nested chain of two-place linkages. along with only a small set of such grammatically coded relationalities. or habitual for.Translation. cousin to – 79 – . (ngayu) iraaya / (ngayu) bamraanja. which in fully nominalized form come out as [X]’s father / father of [X]. Transduction. Those conditions are that both of the two relata – one needs to remember that kinship terms are inherently possessed. occur only in nominal coding constructions with explicit or semantically projectible possessor as well as head noun – are both ‘male’.” (be) father to [X]. ]. [X]’s baker (/ baker of [X]).e. . under particular further conditions. This same relational property is most clearly seen in explicit natural language in such phenomena as the English predicating expressions of ascriptive status and “habitual agency. . one can in principle determine what is a semanticogrammatically justifiable translation in the target language by appeal to the fact that denotational meanings are anchored by paradigms of categorial mappings in and across particular languages. Transformation (‘my/our’. But the point is that in the directional task of translating in the denotational mode. The Saussurean ‘sense’ systems called grammars anchor words and expressions in a particular language in the universals of coding principles for all languages. Going back to our example of kinterm translation. ‘thy/your’) or in vocative usage without explicit possessor. For example.e. English (my) father and (my) son comprise a lexical pair such that each codes a signed direction-of-relationship with respect to Worora (ngayu) iraaya. that ‘father’s daughter’. They will also have some specialized properties as statuscharacterizing terms usable to denote and even to refer to particular individuals. and hence marginal to the ethnotheory of language with which we are thus far working. i. for ‘female’ possessor of ‘father’. Outside of this condition... for example.e.

11 These regularities of a specifically lexicosemantic (as opposed to grammaticosemantic more broadly) sort within a denotational domain serve further to anchor translatability. the way that lexemes on the one hand and morphological and syntactic forms on the other code pragmatic. Dravidian.. this means that ‘(egocentrically focused) kinship’ constitutes a DENOTATIONAL LEXICAL DOMAIN. etc. Now it appears that this infinitely extensible “kinship universe” as so coded – through the magic of iterative possessive-phrase grammar – has a certain conceptual integrity when viewed through the lens of universals of lexicalization. there is a lexical paradigm that codes a ‘distal-subsequent’ of this interval type as well (the lexical coding is tomorrow). in that they provide guides to coding a source-language kinship expression with a target-language phrase built around an appropriate head lexeme. ‘day’-intervals). . sometimes also loosely called a “semantic field. The first pair shows lexical coding of the pragmatic scheme of ‘proximal’ vs.e. whether by themselves or with (iterated) possessives. the latter pair shows grammatical coding of the same pragmatic scheme to be applied by interlocutors to the locatability of validity-realms for predicated events. and such ‘Tense’-paradigm members as [“present”] (it) goes vs. this centerpoint “shifts” as discursive eventrealtime moves on. information as denotational characterizations. i.” in which there is a set of structural regularities of how certain classes of denotata within the theoretically infinite universe as so described can regularly be characterized by a single. ‘distal-and-prior’ overlaid on standard (conceptual) intervals of duration-reckoning (here. yesterday for example.12 In the first case. .” “ethno-” and otherwise. because of the overlap of two respective typological classes of lexicalization in Worora and English. there is. The head will emerge from the closeness of fit of classes overlapping in denotational membership in the kinship universe in the respective languages.Michael Silverstein [John’s father’s sister’s husband]. Hawaiian. that is. Yet another pair of factors in ease-of-justification of “translation” in the usual sense is constituted by the lexicopragmatic and grammaticopragmatic regularities of languages. that can be made in any language from its simplex kinterminological lexemes. Put otherwise. noniteratively possessed simplex lexical form. .and son-. further. These two forms of what is generally called the DEICTIC (“pointing”) aspect of denotational language can be seen in English in such lexical pairings as today vs. In both cases. the event of communication is the DEFAULT CENTERPOINT from which ‘proximity’ is conceptualizable. This has constituted for sociocultural anthropologists the typology of kinship systems – Dakota. cousin to [husband to [John’s father’s sister]]. father. [“past”] (it) went. note. a phrasal construction day before [X] and day after [X] for each of the ‘distal’ terms that takes us to two days’ remove from the ‘proximal’ day – 80 – . in our Worora-to-English translation example above. Thus. – which have been investigated through various “genealogical methods. are the appropriate heads of the translation-expressions. or co(n)textual.

So there seem to be certain recognizable DEICTIC DOMAINS where a certain overlap obtains across languages of what is indexically presupposed in-and-by the use of a token of a categorial form. Transformation presupposed for the communicative context. the Person systems of which allow of calibration. not at issue here). A First Person form differentially characterizes some ‘referent’ as the individual inhabiting this relational role at the moment of use of the form (alone or with others). Yet even the denotational value of words and expressions in co(n)text is a function of much more than grammar and lexicon. by contrast. Similarly. to be sure – of the grammaticopragmatic category of First Person. we get along in English grammatical form with modalizations such as (it) will go and other vernacular-register approximations such as (it) is going to go. among numerous others. Here. and constitute the baseline onto which culturespecific elaborations are laminated. We move to the plane of principles of cotextuality and contextuality for words and expressions only as they occur in discursive realtime. generally known as culture. for other Person-category forms. for example. are based on certain common schematic and structured understandings of communicative events and situations that are made the basis of denotational characterization of what is being communicated about. we can identify the presupposition that someone is inhabiting the communicative role of ‘sender’ or (loosely) ‘speaker’. On the comparative plane. these schemata are general and abstract.Translation. so that in our example above we can justify our translation of Worora ngayu by English I/me/my (note the contrast of grammatical Case in English. we must leave the plane of grammar-and-lexicon – even in the hybrid mode it appears in deictic phenomena – in relation to text-in-co(n)text. and therefore to the extent that these are systematic. shows various calibrational regularities when viewed in terms of lexical and morphosyntactic codings of form. deixis. lexicon). And similarly across all languages. ‘nonpast’ [=> (‘proximal’)13]. Each one of these kinds of successful translation in the technical sense depends upon the way we can read text-in-co(n)text via systematic abstractions of structure that lie immanent in text-in-co(n)text insofar as anchored by the fact of grammar (and its dependent constitutive part. There are other kinds of meaning communicated by words and expressions in co(n)text. Transduction. All of these. Crosslinguistically. There emerge certain typologies of categorial elaborateness of deictic systems like Tense or Person or Evidentiality. there are distinct principles of meaningfulness that organize their systematicity. thus in effect using the schematic presumed to apply to the momentary communicative role-structure differentially to denote something. however. for more specific intervals within the ‘nonpast’ such as to indicate futurity. From the point of view of language. This is how we capture – 81 – . as opposed to ‘receiver’ or (loosely) ‘hearer’/‘addressee’ as the focal notion – there are elaborations and extensions of it. too. there is no morphological paradigm of the Tense category in English beyond the dichotomous “past” [= ‘distal-prior’] vs. In the second case.

they characterize some aspect of what is denoted in terms of that presupposed structure. Words and expressions have directly indexical RULES OF USE.]). By contrast. §I. Silverstein 1994 for examples).Michael Silverstein the indexical and iconic modalities through which words and expressions are endowed with significances in their co(n)textual matrix. universally.2 [1916: 101f. actual imitation. dialectic. or imagistic iconicity of lexical signal form to denoted object is.1. though indexically-based ones. direct “iconic” values of certain formal aspects of the signals of language are frequently understood as part of what is communicated by words and expressions in co(n)text (see Jakobson and Waugh 1979: chapter 4.” focusing again on the denotational relation between a lexical form and some real-world object of denotation. meaning co(n)text both as the form’s matrix of structuredness PRESUPPOSED and as its matrix of structuredness ENTAILED or CREATED – in effect. rule-governed structuredness of grammar in its preponderant totality (whence Saussurean sense emerges). whether by being elements of more abstract sociolinguistic REGISTERS or by themselves having a distinct indexical loading that points to a particular location in society as their normatively authorizing site of use (who/to-whom/where/when/with-what-meaning). through various culturally specific processes (and thereby possibly universal ones at a very different level of explanation). The specific meanings of words-andexpressions as used are at least in part a function of this – as Jakobson (1981 [1960]: 18–21) termed it. of course. performatively (Austin 1975 [1962]) summoned into being – in-and-by the very event of use of the particular form.or sub-lexical – 82 – .14 Words and expressions also are organized into textual structures. Deictic forms. denote by virtue of pointing to a context some aspect of the structure of which they presuppose. Both of these kinds of indexical system are essentially part of the textin-co(n)text plane at which words and expressions are endowed with meaning. the significant emergent unitizations of which have internal cotextuality at hierarchically inclusive levels of structure as they unfold one with respect to another. Indexical forms more generally simply point to their co(n)textual surround. see Hinton et al. above and beyond any Saussurean-anchored “translatable” concepts. to recapitulate. We must recognize that the greater part of the meaningfulness of words and expressions comes first from various directly indexical modalities of semiosis and second from complex. therefore. they require some “translational” attention. The quasi. as Saussure long ago pointed out (in the Cours. from Aristotle – “poetic” order of organization of discourse. and it is antithetical to the formal. 1994) is the diagrammatic characteristic of what Jakobson identified as the “poetic” – read: cotextual – organization of ritual discourse into textual form. But. The most fundamental kind of iconism in language (sometimes loosely called “sound symbolism. distinctly marginal to denotation as such: it is always at least partly conventionalized in terms of the language-culture nexus in which a denotational system of words and expressions exists.

(And let us stipulate for the time being that both source and target are. . splutter and the like are classic chestnuts for the [spl-. Qualities of alliteration.Translation. Once we get beyond the systematizable in this Saussurean respect. By this I mean a process of reorganizing the source semiotic organization (here. Transformation “ideophones” or “morpheme partials” that seem to associate sound imagistically with concepts – English splat. We should think seriously of the underlying metaphor of the energy transducer that I invoke. in what I would term a kind of semiotic transduction. Transduction. as discussed above. because they rely on a different approach to “translation” than the clearcut areas of Saussurean and deictic denotation. . assonance. in essence. Here. we are. splash. Hence. in the original problem. multidimensionally “like.g. “Translation” as Transduction As folk of semiotic Wissenschaften.] initial sound-image – are indeed important to understand and “translationally” to capture as components of source-material expressions. So the “translation”-relevant meaningfulness of words and expressions consists in the interaction of such modalities of semiosis together with the denotational modality anchored by Saussurean ‘sense’ and by deixis. this additional.”) As was noted above. such as a hydroelectric generator. nonSaussurean semiosis always manifests in fundamentally indexical and iconic meaning processes (in the Peircean sense). how these other kinds of semiotic system can be said to correspond across source and target texts – paralleling the Whorfian concept of grammaticosemantic “calibration” – is the focus of transductional relationships of words and expressions across languages. in general outlines. These indexical and iconic values of words and expressions in co(n)textualized texts constitute a distinct area of problems we must consider for the would-be translator. denotationally meaningful words and expressions of a source language occurring in co[n]text) by target expressions-in-co(n)text of another language presented through perhaps semiotically diverse modalities differently organized. we anchor our understanding of the first kind of systematizable aspect of translation in the universal fact of (Saussurean) grammar and its consequences for semantico. one that takes account of rather distinct semiotic properties. the gravitationally aided downstream and downward linear rush of water against turbine blades] is asymmetrically converted into another kind of energy at – 83 – .and pragmaticogrammatical organization of words and expressions in their cotextual and contextual surround. and other iconic tropes of classical poetics do seem to be realities of the meaningfulness of expressions for addressees in source languages that need attention in the translational process so that these realities are accommodated in the target-language textual equivalent. one form of organized energy [e.

Michael Silverstein an energetic transduction site [e. that we might translate by any one of the denotationally appropriate English vocatives that correspond: father!. dada!. daddy!. interlocutors draw on all of the various modalities of meaningfulness coded in relatively stable ways in sign form so as to produce that fragile something. the latter considered to be something of a Baby Talk Register16 word and thence a word ascribed to children’s Worora usage. The point is. To achieve text-structures-in-context. Consider. djidja in a pragmatic paradigm of indexical meaningfulness.)15 These non-Saussurean aspects of meaningfulness are bound up in discursive processes. or their child’s. people’s accounts of their.a). Lee 1997. ira. We are dealing with the non-Saussurean aspects of meaningfulness of words and expressions. of course with some slippage between the two systems of energy organization. due to “friction. for the first-ascending-generation forms. In this transducer. a traditionally undertheorized wastebasket to which. all – 84 – . etc. There is the regularly formed “bare stem” form of vocative. for example. much of what goes into connecting an actual source-language expression to a target-language one is like such a transduction of energy: for here we are dealing with the transduction of semiosis beyond what Saussurean sensesystematics informs us about. we have been trying to bring some conceptual order through a philosophically acute linguistic anthropology fashioned in recent years. connected thus to the energy of the flowing water on turbine blades]. circular motion of a coil-in-a-magnetic-field gizmo around an axle with torque. let us consider some of the effects of non-Saussurean semiotic partials of discursive activity starting from this usual starting point.” “random contingent factors. pre-fetal and active impregnation of their wouldbe father (social anthropological “genitor”) as his about-to-be-conceived child. papa!. the two modes of mechanical energy are converted in a functionally regular way into another kind of energy altogether [e. how to “translate” words and expressions from source language into target. For example.g. pop!.” “inefficiencies. the denotation-coding words and expressions into which the learnèd reconstruction of interlocution parses this complex semiotic activity turn out to be just a small. driven by a certain force (voltage) against the forces of its conductors (resistance/conductance)]. But which of these? We must note that Worora has another vocative. interlocutors collaborating in multiple modalities to create text-structures-in-context over the course of realtime interaction. But inasmuch as theorizing “translation” has inordinately focused essentially upon this learnèd reconstruction. reflexively salient partial of what it precipitates. from which derives each normal person’s “great name” (see Silverstein ms. for instance.g. harnessing at least some of it across energetic frameworks. By contrast. the ‘vocative’ forms that correspond to the Worora expression (ngayu) iraaya ‘(my) father’. (See. Franklinian electric current of certain intensity (amperage). Parmentier 1997. nevertheless. dad!.” and other tragedies of the laws of thermodynamics and of uncertainty.

Whorf 1956c [1945]: 99] collocation. already illustrates a difference of translation/transduction ratio. that are the correct transductions from one system of indexical contextualization to another. a fully productive syntactic collocation. cultural ones – to the compositional meaning of the seemingly isosemantic [= same-“sense”d. on the other. perhaps papa. given a semanticogrammatical composite. Transformation contain the formulaic utterance. These other factors comprise. Transduction. in switching codes sometimes. Lucy 1992a: 65–71. Hence. transducible in my English-language pragmatics as “dad!” or “pop!” (not “son!”) though. in the first instance. it is the simplex lexical form that inevitably has a “meaning” that adds multiple pragmatic (indexical) and metapragmatic factors – in short. e. We might. “Djidja.Translation. would alternate the only translation-equivalent they knew. and its denotationally closest (termed “synonymous”) correspondent expression in simplex lexical form.g. Silverstein 1987). Of course. Lee 1997: 170–74. ngayueguwaligee!” ‘Daddy! It’s (precisely) me!’ – using the vocative in question. the mere fact that there might be paraphrases in a source language where one form is a grammatically conforming and compositional expression while its “synonym” is a grammatically classifiable lexical simplex. dada. then. for Worora djidja it would be the more Baby Talk types. conceptualize something like a ratio of LINGUISTIC-STRUCTURALLY JUSTIFIABLE OR SYSTEMATIC ‘translation’ on the one hand to the various additional factors that go into giving an interlingual gloss.” which always caused me to remark its inappropriateness in the American English system of vocative register sets. In any language. Grown men exchange the vocative “ira!” in Worora. lacking any alternative forms in local Pidgin English. “daddy. the ratio of “true” translation in our narrowed sense to at best systematic transduction will obviously vary.18 but share the semantic meaning of the latter plus some indexed presuppositions in the realms of normative cultural knowledge. insofar as there is a distinction among the various English language forms. These indexed presuppositions are associated with – 85 – . daddy. English [X] murder [Y] (with the simplex verb) means not merely the same as ‘[X] cause [Y] to die’ (with the grammatically constructed phrasal collocation). my grown Worora-speaking friends of the mid-1970s. So as a function of different classes of words and expressions in a source text.17 We know that various classes of words and expressions have particular complexities – besides the semanticogrammatical (Saussurean ‘sense’) structures and pragmaticogrammatical ones – that to different degrees play roles in their complete “meanings” (cf. One tries to equate Worora and Anglo-American (at least) CULTURAL SYSTEMS OF VALUE that endow the register forms with indexical meaningfulness – capturing this way how both source expression and target expression point to appropriate contexts and create effective contexts in systems of use as verbally mediated social action. Thus. 1992b: 95–102. what underlies an intuitive ‘transduction’ of the source expression in the first language into some (organization of) target expression(s) of the second.

is all this? The translation/transduction ratio – or. after all. – all of interest.e. be “translated. notwithstanding being unexpressed in denotationally explicit code.19 And can such performable effects. etc. use of a token of which constitutes a type of act that indexes judgments of a culturally rich sort. It is systematically relative to how transductional aspects of interlingual glossing depend on the pragmatic aspects of both languages. Hence. and similar attributes of humans projected onto the denotatum of X. So the ratio is in fact doubly relative in this way.” For in dealing with performative efficacy.e. centrally those ways in which a language is part of ‘culture’ by virtue of the sociocultural contextualization – i. indexical presupposition and especially indexical entailment (performativity) – of the flow of language-in-use. a word like murder-. from an arbitrary source structure to some augmented. denotationally centered approaches to “translation.. could we work them back into some target textual object in the – in principle – right way? This would be to preserve all of the properties of the original save for this transduction of semiosis. consider the textual appearance in an English source of. semanticogrammatically conforming textual structure of the target language? Hence. we can dispute the very possibility of systematic expressibility of the targeted performative effect of indexicals in some pragmatic metalanguage. in translation. the question is how. Is there a determinate way to use a corresponding word or expression in the target plus all the metapragmatic description that fills in the presupposed contextual invocations of the source word? Would this require a shadow apparatus of a cultural encyclopedia to answer such questions as. (conscious) intentionality.Michael Silverstein (rational) agency. such performative indexicalities. to formalizers in legal institutions.” i. Bakhtin (1981) long ago pointed out the essential dialogical or mimetic renvoi to such authorizing contexts that each (at least logically) “successive” usage of any word or expression so centered in (hence. interval of ratios permissible as the translator’s wiggle-room – is a function of such properties in both source and target languages. That is to say.” then. REPRESENT. as well as unmediated qualities of ‘caus[e]’al interaction by which X causes Y to die. ultimately. Such source-text – 86 – . what kinds of text in what kinds of context is this source-language term or expression characteristically used in? How practical. which sociologically center or anchor “authorized” usage of the term murder in a larger cultural “division of linguistic labor” (Putnam 1975). really.. indexical of) an institutionalized social structure bears as part of its meaningfulness – of course this is every term. even were one able to “express. much of what goes for the “translation” even of simplex words in a text of a language actually constitutes transduction of indexical systems invoked by token usage of the words in the source text. say. as it turns out! To the degree such complexes of presupposition contribute particularly to the performative efficacy of textual use of words and expressions as social action they constitute the very limits of normal.

as well as of their meta-levels. the denotational literalness of the first generally play a small role in the choice of a proper or best “translation. performative) effect in Tonkawa. Transformation indexical values have to be reconstructed in indexical systems of another culture as these can be made relevant to shaping the target text to be doing effectively equivalent ‘functional’ work. as valuated conceptual distinctions indexically invoked in-and-by the use of words and expressions in inhabited social-actional context. transduction. then to transduce – 87 – .. supplementary textual apparatus – like notes – in effect to “explain” the pragmatic particulars that make the original text work so that the target text can also work in “like” ways for those who wish to encounter it. frequently coinciding with roles in communication itself. though pragmatically neutral. imprecations. because we better understand how even the simplest attempt at interlingual glossing is laden with ‘culture’ in a very specific way. So we try.g. to translate a word laden with lots of indexical rules of use (e. Transduction.e. So if the original source-language word or expression communicates such contextual information indexically. Those contexts or those conceptual distinctions in a source usage are indexed in-and-by the use of certain words or expressions in particular events of communicative usage. We can understand these indexical values frequently in terms of describable social differentiations of kinds of actors who take various roles in sociocultural context.. REGULARITIES across such (as we can term them) grammaticopragmatic systems – distinct from Saussurean grammar in analytic fact if not in the overt signal of words and expressions in text – we can understand that there is the possibility of a certain systematicity of transductions as well as of translations.. In the nature of things. for example.” while Hemayan gadau shilwan! ‘may you give birth to a wandering [shilwan] ghost’ “is the very acme of profanity. like speaker–addressee–overhearer (audience). Sometimes we are tempted to assimilate such systematic transductions to the narrower ethnometapragmatic “translation” concept that everything must fit into target-language denotational code. Thus. even if our forebears have not.” i. This move causes such conceptual confusion of the denoted and the indexed. in one pragmatic register of a source language into “equivalents” in a target language. Worora iraaya. you motherfucker!” or some such? Clearly. etc.Translation. as makes our Quines quiver. etc. of the semantic and the purely pragmatic. We must resist this temptation. discussed above) with a whole denotational phrase (viz. in fact. such description of context is metapragmatic. man’s son) and be done with it. both as conceptualization and as discourse. (Or we need as transducer an elaborate.” Are these the equivalents of American English “Darn!” and “Eat me.) To the extent to which there are. Think of transducing obscenities.. son of a man. Harry Hoijer (1933: 135) reports that the Tonkawa20 curse Hemayan! ‘ghost’ is “a fairly mild oath. curses. just translating the denotational content does not seem to suggest the difference of original indexical (here.

Such co(n)text implicitly defines this now-borrowed foreign term or at least it provides in toto a chunk of something of a descriptive backing so the term can denote something for the reader who makes it to the end of the relevant prose. As can be easily seen now.21 It tends. and because we do indeed have metapragmatic descriptive machinery for describing social context. So. the borrowed term is not so much translated as at best transduced modulo the very ethnographic text. simply to use expressions that describe the context of use of a word or expression in the source language (rather than ones that index. this makes the target-language ethnographic text the supervening ‘context’ (strictly speaking. there emerges at best an effective transduction of each such term an ethnographic author refuses to “translate. the attempt is to build the erstwhile indexical meaningfulness of source-language words and expressions used with certain effect in context into the purported “translation meaning. In this way. thus being indexically known by it and becoming a topos of disciplinary discourse. Every subsequent usage of the term-labeling-the-concept is a textual reference or Bakhtinian renvoi to the ethnographic text. We must note that only rarely has the “untranslated” term undergone a transformation into an actual technical – 88 – . note. and being wary of functionally distorting transduction. at least partially. a comparable context in the target). now interposed between source-language users of the term and target-language users of it. we anthropologists seem easily to despair of the transductions necessary to deal ethnographically with key labels for cultural concepts. driven by our own ideology of sloppy “translational” failure. the contextually exhausting ‘cotext’) for the nowborrowed term. But perhaps because it is so difficult to avoid the blunder. Geertz 1988). Finding no easy and “meaning”-exhausting translation in our narrower sense.Michael Silverstein it into a target-language word or expression is to find a way to index something comparable in the way the resultant target text communicates to its intended receivers. into an object of contemplation and characterization.22 Authorial begging of indulgence to suspend translation on grounds of “ineffability” may thus also be a discursive move to guarantee to said author the authority of having “been there” (see Clifford 1983. mutatis mutandis.” By contrast. further. much as in the ideology of technical concept/term coinage rampant in scientific circles. The ethnographic text becomes its secondary indexical origo for a substitutive system of indexical meanings.” its ineffable source-language indexicalities replaced by the target-language indexicalities located in the ethnographic text that co(n)textualizes it. In essence. mixes together many distinct semiotic levels and essentially transforms the source text-in-co(n)text. to make of the author of such an ethnographic text the patron of the untranslated term/concept as his or her own. Crapanzano 1986. we are always tempted simply to reproduce a phonologically adapted form of a “native” term in an otherwise target-language ethnographic text.

all that is at issue in “translating” is finding the proper lexical equivalents at the denotational plane (translation in the narrow sense). In every one of these systems. such a term has tended to remain an index of the particular ethnographer’s authority over the way we think of the culture whose term remains untranslated but instead revalued so as to index some ethnographic interpretative text. Italian a formally ‘third person singular feminine’. But this is clearly only the case where the contextualizing indexical systems of how forms are used are more or less comparable across source and target – as in Whorf’s “Standard Average European” (1956b [1941]: 138) languages.) Much more common is the situation in which the transductional equivalents are not obvious: how does one capture the “tone. Tibetan. So there is no easy solution to the problem posed by textual words and expressions requiring transduction.” The words and expressions cluster around a limited number of denotational domains – thus never the whole lexicon – as used in certain kinds of grammatically parsable collocations. Transduction. Hence. Rather. something on the order of a cultural analysis of both systems of usage is a prerequisite to finding a route of transduction. Consider the famous “speech levels” of languages like Japanese. Here. German Sie (: du) easily translating into Italian Lei (: tu) or Russian vy (: ty). It rests on the fact that structurally comparable distinctions constitute the respective languages’ indexical machinery. moreover. Javanese.. This ease of indexical transduction is the exceptional case.” i. Korean. substitution of the proper sort can be easily accomplished. in strictly grammatical categorial terms.23 Traditionally they have operated in societies in which systems of stratificational rank of interlocutors and denoted others constitute the basis for gradated indexical acts of deference from one person (as speaker/ sender) to another (as addressee and/or referent).e. etc. indexical penumbra. however. German uses a formally ‘third person plural’ denotational pronominal for “V”-ing someone. even though the denotational (semanticogrammatical) categories along with which these indexical distinctions are signaled differ from language to language. the systems manifest themselves in elaborate pragmatic paradigms of what native users think of as gradiently alternate ways of denoting “the same thing. When there is an easy transduction of an indexical system of meaning from one language-culture to another. in analytic terms that reveal both the similarities and the differences.” for example!). the “T/V” systems (Brown and Gilman 1960) of European languages transduce easily. Sundanese. a speaker’s control of the higher reaches of the lexical – 89 – .Translation. modulo transducible indexical values. (Observe that. Transformation term or even popular catchword in a generation or two (think of how laypersons speak of American society’s “taboos. Modulo this indexing of someone’s deference entitlement with respect to a speaker. and Russian a ‘second person plural’. so as to be able to navigate a proper transduction from the source to the target. of a word or expression in a source text by one in a target language used in a highly distinct culture? Clearly.

In any of these language communities. that there exist systems of stratified registers of language use like that of American English or any other SAE language in a diverse but standardized language community. It allows a speaker to recognize the deference entitlement of an addressee as a contributing factor to these. public occasion. “(inter)personal/biographical” contexts of communication. Using various technical. American English (Brown and Ford 1964[1961]. and other highly valued functional alternants comprehended in standard (e. even though all functions may not be associable with an equal diversity of comparable forms in moving from language-culture to language-culture. In another order of indexical effects. both giving off something of the same indexical effect modulo their systems of cultural interpretation of such. indexes a range of contextual states of affairs. speaking “well” is speaking with an indexical renvoi – signaled by use of higher register – to having inhabited or inhabiting superordinate positions in important contexts of social action. even though it does not have a pronominally focused “T/V” system. though with fewer. moreover. the registers created by the fact of standardization in SAE languages are at least partially implemented in ways parallel to the “speech-level” deference indexicals of the various Southeast Asian languages mentioned. Greco-Latin forms with complex morphological structure). the stratification of registers is reflected in context-appropriate and context-entailing “stylistic” adjustments that speakers make. line up as somewhat comparable in their total usage (see Agha 1994. it points to relatively high self-positioning of the speaker as well within the schemata of stratification made relevant to the situation.” and/or between relatively “impersonal/institutional” vs. Morford 1997). in English. one can transduce a high Javanese term by an elaborate latinate.g. Hence. In one mode. it is the difference between relatively “formal” vs. rather than monosyllabic term in English. “informal. hence less subtly entextualizable. Thus.Michael Silverstein alternants indexes someone as well of considerable deference entitlement and/or a formal. though focused on pronominal usage. Hence. there seem to be parallels across languages both of how people use the forms and of their contextualizing indexical values. Notwithstanding some fundamental differences in how these indexical variations are understood in local cultural terms. euphemistic. forms in the pragmatic paradigm. But of course the SAE “T/V” systems. Murphy 1988) does equivalent social indexing with paradigms of alternant personal names. centering as they do on honorification and indexical gestures of deference. One can transduce a “T” or “V” form usage in an SAE language by one of the several different – 90 – . all the while “saying the same thing” as one could in more prosaic register.24 Note. The latter registers are at least partially comparable in function to “T/V” systems of SAE languages. The point here is that across these cultural systems there are comparabilities we can recognize in the discursive facts catalogued above.

as for example William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet becoming – being “translated” into – Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story. But this leads us to consider that in transduction. Doing so in the proper kind of framework of comparison allows us not to obliterate the very real differences in total cultural effect while recognizing parallelisms of how certain semiotic machinery – here. then. Scientifically unsystematic practices of generations of anthropologists-as-ethnographic-“translators” have turned source-language/culture material willy-nilly into signs of the structures of power and influence of the professional and scholarly worlds in which the discourse of ethnography is carried on as a central social practice. transducing material moves us between a source cultural system and a target one. In one sense. there is always the possibility of transformation of the [en]textual[ized] source material contextualized in specific ways into configurations of cultural semiosis of a sort substantially or completely different from those one has started with.” It is not to be confused with translation in our narrower usage. and we attempt to move across these. transformation can be considered to result from a kind of misfire of intent with respect to translation and transduction. operating as we do in the realm of culture more frankly. inasmuch as it is comparison of cultural forms of social action. It is the stuff of ever-evolving performance institutions in our own society’s cultural life. use of words and expressions – does abstractly similar communicative work. And so forth. Finding comparabilities and overlaps in the way words and expressions do their culture-specific indexical work is a task eminently anthropological.25 But in another sense. On the basis of such. we can think of determinately intentional aesthetic genre transformation. one of many types of transformation of [en]text[ualization]s defined by the semiotic axes along which it happens. Transduction. So whether we see it pretheoretically as the problem of stylistically matching an original’s “tone” with a translated one. transduction constitutes a distinct problem area for “translation. Transformation ‘second person singular’ personal deictics in the various Southeast Asian systems. In each system words and expressions are indexically anchored within entextualizationsin-context. a “translator” can attempt to induce in an addressee of the selected and deployed target-language form some understanding comparable to what an addressee of the source-language form would understand in the originary communication. or we see it more theoretically as dealing with the limits of comparability of cultural indexicalities keyed by particular words and expressions.Translation. The Transformation of Cultural Meaning More than really translating material (in my narrowed sense). Victor Hugo’s novel Les Misérables “adapted” – “translated” – to the – 91 – . Recall the discussion above of “untranslated” cultural terms in ethnographies.

The point is that the meaningfulness of the very terms that originate in some source language in source-culture usage has been transformed significantly in the target-language and especially target-cultural usage. one’s fame as it were: the professional descriptive backing associated with the use of the proper name of the author is. etc. we start. users (implicit “referencers” or explicit “citers”). Even trying to play it as safe as we can with the textual stuff with which. “untranslated” words and expressions from ethnographic loci – with special kinds of meaningfulness.26 The point here is not to praise or condemn this other meaningfulness (that is. Thus can practitioners of identity creation and management within disciplinary and more popular circles learn how to institutionalize such transformations of value in a highly deliberate manner. exotic. Of course. Part of this involves indexing identities and qualities of the terms’ creators (“discoverers”). to give the ethnographic author a kind of “ownership” over the scholarly term from “one’s people. Because of the transformation of semiosis just described.. then. Sometimes there is no way sufficiently to systematize and limit the transduction of verbal material across functionally intersecting pragmatic systems. There is a kind of Hall of Fame principle organizing such a social system. indexically manifested cultural value) that emerges for imported source-language terms in anthropological and wider discursive usages. This fits into the general scientific-scholarly notions of precedence of attributed or at least ascribed coinage for technical terminology of a field’s discourse – a sociocultural fact if ever there was one. These are wholesale exercises in transformation in our sense of the term.” immediately this ownership becomes indexically convertible with one’s name. then. in which the conceptual labels of other cultures. by hypothesis. consider again the case of nontranslation of ethnographic words and expressions. If the effect is. Gumlao? Edmund Leach. the label for the ineffable concept. as noted. intendedly transduced so as to get their technical meaning from one’s target-language ethnographic text. to the degree that there – 92 – . semiotic transformation then occurs. Kula? Bronislaw Malinowski. the untranslated but cotextually transduced material. From the point of view of semiotic transformation now. For the culture of anthropologists renders us members of the academic and other professional institutional orders and endows originary technical terms – among them. So the overall co(n)textual meaning of such a term has been profoundly transformed. carrying forward this style of “nontranslational practice” in ethnographic genres becomes centrally involved in social reproduction of a disciplinary line or category through the establishment of a canonical text site. become the trophies displayed (the ethnographic text being the pedestal) for those elected.Michael Silverstein musical stage by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and associates. in their own stratified discursive regimes. complete with a durational interval of relevant half-life! But here the “coinages” are words from another language/culture.

Translation. transformation of source material.) Perhaps. The “translations” that result must perforce be shaped as discourse genres that license the effectiveness of target verbal forms in sociocultural ways highly different from the originary ones. At the same time. to the degree to which the source and target elements constitute parts of diagrammatic forms of each other in their respective cotexts. of course. For verbal. can be put in correspondence with source material as IT occurs in [en]text[ualization]-in-context. that translation and its more fluid – as opposed to gelid – extensions. as for other semiotic material.” (And of course this is true as well for all those aspects of text-in-context itself that are not conformingly Saussurean. seems to occur as a risk (or license!) of starting from source entextualizations far from home that require radical reshaping in the “translational” attempt to domesticate them. the very organization of pragmatic systems that are involved in the source situation of usage cannot be duplicated in the target situation. So to the extent to which there is a concept of “tropic meaning” attached to the respective elements of source and target texts. as noted above. I expect that for semiotic systems unlike human language. such as transduction and transformation. we must remind ourselves. as different. hence graspable “tropic” appearance. there is always something of the transformational in every attempted translation! Usually. then. the condition of emergence of meaning is textuality-in-context. Even when a token of a word appears printed on a page in an expository prose text and when a token of it appears printed on a page of concrete poetry. occur in a kind of nested set of relationships that emerge in the process of explicit interlingual glossing. and rendering a painting according to the scheme. and. a higher-order notion of “translation-prime” is in a sense suggested. as musical “text” and painting-as-“text. since it misconstrues the vast gulf that exists – 93 – . rather than transduction or translation of it. Think of allegorical embodiment of moral values. Transformation is transduction beyond a translator’s intended limits. I hope. transformed material. the translation metaphor in these other realms – for that is what it is – does more harm than good. the effects of trope-generating transformation come to play a role in any further stability of actual translation in our narrow sense – starting the cycle all over again! It is clear now. these are at least in part transformations one of the other. Transduction. which thus operate without a true grammaticosemantic system of the Saussurean type to anchor them.” as it were. yielding a relationship of transformation of a certain localized. Think for example of transforming a schema of moral values into a color code. while remaining language. emerging out of an [en]text[ualization]-in-context. the very condition of trope. transduction and transformation play the unrecognized – or at least untheorized! – major role in what is sometimes loosely termed “translation. Transformation is. Hence. as in so much of Renaissance painting. Sometimes it is possible selectively to reshape an organization of them so that the target verbal material appears in texts of very different functional characteristics.

The very forms of abstract language structure. ideologically driven view of the continuous signals of denotational textuality is actually semiotically complex cultural material. things like linguistic forms and other traceable bodily signs. are of the essence. “under” – a culture. indexical entailments) of any such cultural semiosis. culture penetrates into phenomenal language via indexicality and iconicity28 so that transduction and transformation. text-artifacts. we hardly treat a ballet (entextualization of tableaux of bodily movement) set to music (entextualization of pitches and tonal intensities in metered combination-and-sequence) in the same way as [= as homology of] how we treat a denotationally-centered “bilingual edition” of. Much of what looks like ‘language’ in a superficial. even perdure.” but by its indexical characteristics and related modalities of meaningfulness that interweave with Saussurean-based denotational form. of varying degrees of coherence.” “Cultures” as such cannot be (in our narrower sense) “translated. We are speaking here of texts. as contingencybound semiotic objects that arise as structures of informational or conceptual coherence in context. For the critical and inevitable point about “translating cultures” is that at beginning and end of these processes we are dealing with textual objects experienceable and intelligible only within – or as the mathematicians would say. the precipitated record of this is a text. perhaps revealing the ineptness or just looseness of the metaphors invoked.Michael Silverstein between language and these other systems in the way of manifestation of semiotic capacities. to the degree that something is communicated. is available to us. say.)27 And let us recall yet further critical points for “translation” within the domain of phenomenal language itself. for such parts of a text. As a form of social action. in some physical form and. circulating. As well. can be distinguished by the concentrated cultural lumpiness they embody as an important functional aspect – 94 – . it misplaces its interest at levels of abstraction and organization that are far from what can be “translated. In this sense. mediate the entextualization/contextualization process between two or more people. And even within a cultural tradition. then. in fact. and hence if we are to understand the nature of the three T’s. we have to understand something of the nature of such textual objects in culture. only the explicit mediating “stuff” of which. note. insofar as most of their manifestations are in fact nonlinguistic. which exist. But it is with respect to texts that people mutually adjust one to another in realtime social interaction. Not. in the generation of at least one text in this sense.” for example. Wittgenstein or a Greek or Latin author in the Loeb Classical Library. (Even reading a – text-artifactual – book or looking at a – text-artifactual – painting are contingent acts that result. Such material is defined not by its Saussurean-centered “denotationality. rather than translation. language use in entextualizing/contextualizing events is endowed with all the dialectically emergent creativity (technically.

Literature that draws its sustenance mainly – never entirely – from the lower level. sometimes with astonishing adequacy. Both types of literary expression may be great or mediocre. as translation theory has attempted to take account of the sociocultural nature of language in all its contextualized varieties. Transduction. from denotational textuality (and especially its lexicogrammatical underpinnings in language systems). non-linguistic art. This brings up the question of whether in the art of literature there are not intertwined two distinct kinds or levels of art – a generalized. Thus. The very act of “translating” according to the intents of the usual. . drawing on Benedetto Croce (1909. but that medium comprises two layers. the latent content of language – our intuitive record of experience – and the particular conformation of a given language – the specific how of our record of experience. which can be transferred without loss into an alien linguistic medium.g. 21922). Literature moves in language as a medium. is translatable without too great a loss of character. and a specifically linguistic art that is not transferrable . Such parts of language already inherently require different kinds of “translational” treatment. . Sapir’s ([1921] 1949: 221–31) discussion of “Language and Literature. Nevertheless literature does get itself translated. Notes 1. The crisis – 95 – . says that the latter is therefore perfectly right in saying that a work of literary art can never be translated. and we now understand language to have a complex semiotic manifestation. chronologically organized anthology of Venuti (2000).Translation. Transformation of their categorial differentiation. as it were. say a play of Shakespeare’s. If it moves in the upper rather than the lower level – a fair example is a lyric of Swinburne’s – it is as good as untranslatable. since we now understand culture in fact to be semiotic form. and in the admirable. denotationally focused ethnotheory – wherein at least one text must be construed – is a process that thus cannot but be INHERENTLY TRANSFORMING of any such cultural material in the source text that has indexically entailing potential realized in context.” for example. Not in and of itself a startling or new point. 2. One can follow this in the historical accounts of twentieth-century translation theories. Gentzler 1993. e. my argument attempts to be more subtle both in respect of language form (Sapir’s “particular conformation of a given language”) and of cultural form (Sapir’s “latent content”). note the progression outward. Here. of course.

but do not seem to have realized that the semiotic re-partialling of language/textuality itself is necessary to theorizing these matters in a more productive and systematic way. we can regularly compute the meaning of C. 31998). yellow. 4. cf. 6. while bluebird. cf.is not. there is generally compositionality. the [building-] demolition image seems to have caught the fancy of generations of writers feeling themselves to have been liberated in their aggressions. illustrate the anxiety. in principle. Thus.g. Alas. predicate-argument notation with a given – 96 – 3. though we would now see them as proceeding from the semiotic complexity of textuality-in-context. in European ethnolinguistic reflexivity. Bassnett and Trivedi 1999) are concerned with “identity” and “culture” in relation to translation. given the meanings of A and B plus the rule of construction by which A and B are joined to form C. What I am terming ‘Saussurean sense’ is. leading to the theory of ‘[distinctive] features’. done a complete grammaticosemantic analysis of the entire language system of which signifier and signified are correlative partials at the level of synchronic norm. the logic of the Praguean revolution in the study of phonology. It is also. English blue bird. a noun] yields a nominal expression [=C] yellow bird-. in English attributive constructions of modifying adjective preceding modified noun. 7. A grammatically complex expression ‘C’ consisting of elements ‘A’ and ‘B’ is said to be semantically compositional if. centered in the first instance on denotation. an adjective] plus bird.Michael Silverstein of finding the right semiotic aspect of language about which to anchor translational practice always seems to start from conflicts of “fidelity” that are. This is the Boasian or Whorfian idea of the “calibration” of languages one with respect to another modulo a universal grammar or space of possible categorial systems (Silverstein 2000: 86–94).” my English from the French déconstruire. Recent writers in translation studies (Venuti 2000: 331–488.[=A. the meaning of which modulo the grammar is a computable function of the meanings of the two simplex stems. Silverstein 1993.[=B. Observe that denotationally speaking. the functioning of sound systems in languages and in language. Note the re-lexicalization by translating [!] with a view to the originary attack to counter the deep-rooted French – and other – school practice of “construing” a text as to form and determinate “meaning. of course. Saussure’s “signified” (signifié). e. especially sensitive in postcolonial contexts. of course. two pillars of translation studies. cf. subscripts key individuable entities as indexed. déconstruction. .is compositional. Venuti 2000: 15–25) and George Steiner (1975. Both Walter Benjamin (1923. 5. which is only synthetically or constructively associable with any given sign-type (Saussure’s signifiant) after one has. construire ‘construe’. Capital letters in this rough-and-ready notation key the argument that becomes the apparent phrasal denotatum of the linguistic expression.

.” or “. The simplicity and complexity involve at least an intuitive. Observe the proper relationship between Saussurean ‘sense’ and denotational range: the ‘simpler’ the Saussurean ‘sense’. Importantly. . intimate register. in areas of lexical semantics. son [man speaking]’.+ -er to [X]. and especially. djidja]. such as “iraaya ‘father.[X]. if not formalized. the forms in the text. Observe that when used with the underlying verb bake-. also. as also one of the major fields of play for “ethnoscience”/ “cognitive anthropology” and especially its notions of “componential analysis. marking the identity of speaker and possessor!). All this follows from the Saussurean assumptions of modern linguistic semantics. . such as [Y] (to) father. Transduction. the denominative transitive verbs.” It is an object lesson in how bad theorizing emerges in anthropological work in realms of culture when language and other central. son of a man’. meaning-giving semiotic systems are neglected.Translation. Transformation number of variables suggests a semantically n-place relational ‘sense’. 9.+ -(e)r’ or ‘bake. cf. 11. here used in the active intransitive implying a generic direct object [sc. here one with two arguments notated as ‘x’ and ‘Y’. if taken literally. ‘father. – 97 – 8. poorly theorized. 10.. [Y] (to) mother. or theorized by bad analogies. and now much abandoned field of “kinship and social organization” focused on lexical items that was once the mainstay of self-described “social” anthropology (comparative sociology of kin-based societies). suggesting a newly discovered antipodean parthenogenesis among Australian Aboriginal men. or even altogether avoided in favor of identifying culture with a heap of simple word-and-“thing” mappings. the X occurs as the ‘benefactee. where they are lexical nouns. “things”]. the greater the denotational range. of course. somewhat sad. understanding of atomicness of ‘sense’ elements and a compositional algebra in terms of which simplex and complex ‘senses’ are relatively definable.[X] are derivative (denominal) forms meaning [Y] ‘to be(come) father/mother to/of’ [X].for [X].” the first of the glosses. from models that involve Boolean and other kinds of combinatorics (configurational “syntax”) of ‘sense’ elements themselves.’ coded in a phrase-type like [Y] bake. the more ‘complex’ the Saussurean ‘sense. It is. This makes the denotatum of Y ‘[X]’s bake. impossible for me to review here the long.’ the lesser or more specific the denotational range. the second confusing grammatically construable possessor (the first occurring NP as in [NP’s NP]NP) with the individual inhabiting the speaker role in a vocative or equivalent use (which would in any case be accomplished with a special vocative form of stem [in Worora ira. Anthropologists will recall the charming way that European native ideologies of reference pack all this into translations of the lexical heads of such grammatically complex expressions.’ The kinterms do not have such completely verbal constructions in a language like English.

Tense categories incorporate such secondary origines into their very morphological codings.g. the other fails so to communicate [the socalled neutral meaning]. and Lee 1997: 277–320. the combination of primary origin-point with partially transposed secondary one from a narrated character’s point of view constitutes “indirect free style” of narration of “represented speech and thought. expressions indexes (in literary gesture. 13. A related fact is that the neutral-negative form of obligatory grammatical categories is thus also used where no specific value is communicated. 16. 15.) termed this the fundamentally “heteroglossic” nature of a language and of its linguistic community. words. Complex (e. Note that there are ways of constructing secondary deictic origins by describing (in language) the context in which such a situation is to be conceptualized. Putnam 1975. 14. in that one categorial form specifically communicates a denotational value. and in pragmatic discursive context is generally used so as to “implicate” – suggest unless countered – the negative. both in respect of thoroughgoing sociolinguistic differentiation such that the very use of certain pronunciations. complementary. “timeless” truths expressed in English – where a Tense marking is obligatory on a finite clause verb – with a ‘nonpast’ [=> (‘present’)] inflectional form.g. Schwartz 1977).) and a parenthetical presentation of the specific semantic content implicated by the ‘nonpast’ value of the category.Michael Silverstein 12. ‘conditional’) and relative (e. In literary narrative. ‘pluperfect’). This captures the essential insight of Jakobson’s (1971 [1939]: 211ff.” for which see especially Banfield 1993 [1978] and references there. though it subsumes these narrower worryings of the problem of referring and renders them generalizable and useful to the anthropologist and other student of sociocultural conceptualization. the tendency of dichotomously opposed categorial values to be asymmetric. 291ff. and/or that adults actually use in addressing an infant or young child. This approach early on converged with the Kripke–Putnam understanding of a “causal theory” of reference (see Griffiths 1997: 171–201. children sometimes do acquire these terms.) introduction of MARKEDNESS into lexicogrammatical analysis. Bakhtin (see for example 1981: 270ff. Elaborate sociolinguistic processes bring this into being. e.. constitutes a renvoi to) some site of normatively originary discursive production. see Silverstein 1996. and constantly maintain and renew this indexical value of words and expressions in (con)text. Since instruction in discursive interaction is frequently given in Baby Talk Register. – 98 – . Baby Talk Register consists of forms that adults use in characterizing infants’ or young children’s usage.g. or indeed of someone else’s actually more originary production. or polar-opposite denotational value. The symbolization here is with an arrow to indicate ‘implicature’ (Grice 1989 [1967]: 24ff. Kripke 1972.

etc. Transduction. indexically summon up the affective qualities of speaking with/to children. like “main text” and “footnote. emblems of immaturity. 1977. the ‘X’ and ‘Y’ represent Noun Phrases or their grammatical equivalents that can be substituted in the respective syntactic positions so as to project ‘Agentive’ readings for X and ‘Patientive’ readings for Y. In several places Geertz (1983: 10. and the classic papers of Ferguson that developed the topic in both universal-typological terms and in terms of functional relations to other “simplified registers” (1964. and can be found widely in contexts that. This constitutes Searle’s (1969: 30–33) problem of how to formulate determinate “illocutionary force indicating devices” [IFIDs] for each and every performatively consequential act of using any natural human language – which he stipulatively resolves by creating a set of language. It argues that what we can hope at best to achieve in ethnography is a goal of transduction specifically of “key terms” of a culture to reco(n)textualization within a target-language – 99 – . 157–58. notwithstanding the unitary character of the original in its source language. cf.and cultureindependent basic illocutionary act types fully parallel to the famous Berlin and Kay (1969) Basic Color Terms. 21. Ferguson and DeBose 1977). of the register as a secondary process. pronunciations. delocutionarily. 19. See Casagrande (1964 [1948]) for one of the early recognitions and treatments of this phenomenon. Transformation locutions. 185) and those close to him in the trend called “symbolic” and especially “interpretive” anthropology celebrate this substitutive transduction as the hermeneutic glory of anthropological accounts of other cultures’ concepts. (1983: 157) 17. in pragmatic metaphor. talk between lovers. endearment. narrowed sense.g. etc. For the time being let us not worry about the fact that in order to translate/ transduce a given expression in a unitary text in a source language it may be necessary to formulate more than one type of expression in the target language in some complex textual organization of partials. See below on anthropological non-translation in these circumstances.Translation. 1971. when their meaning is unpacked. It thus replaces the traditional comparative and philological goal of translation of culture in my revised. [The anthropological concern] tends to focus on key terms that seem.” or “text” printed in many “typefaces” or similar diacritics. An indigenous American language spoken by “an important and warlike tribe living in central Texas during most of the 18th and 19th centuries” (Hoijer 1933: ix). cf. Jakobson 1962 [1959]. also Dil 1971. The register’s lexical forms and even its other formal aspects frequently become. In these structural formulae. 18. e. to light up a whole way of going at the world. 20.

Michael Silverstein ethnographic text. The ethnographic text thus becomes interpolated (interpellated, too!) between at least the indexical value of the source-language word or expression and our ability to understand its conceptual value. Now much in the way of such “interpretive” ethnographic description consists of describing those very contexts in which the term occurs. So the ethnographic reader’s sense of the “meaning” of such a term, via this Geertzian “unpacking,” is at best (in the most elaborate and sensitive “unpackings”) its rules of illocutionary use, not, in fact, its original denotational meaning or its indexical characteristics! (See here Searle [1969: 136–41] on “the speech act fallacy” about the ‘meaning’ of words and expressions.) Hence, it would seem, merely the “thickness” of the transductional co(n)text provides the basis for and measure of the success of this attempt in place of “translation” or even our more narrowly drawn translation-with-transduction. Geertz and others have very much stressed the locally “unpacking” mission of interpretative ethnography, eschewing translation of the local into cross-culturally generalizing metapragmatic descriptors on the one hand or into other local terms in a natural target language. This angers scientistic types like Dan Sperber (1996: 32–59), who would hold up to anthropology as a “science of the social” the necessity to determine the latter by the former (eschewing transduction and transformation in our senses). 22. An “untranslated” term incorporated into the comparative and theoretical discourse of anthropology turns any textual occurrence of the originary form in some source language into a mere ethnographic instance once more, labeled by the (borrowed) term in question ultimately only as the prototype instance [think of taboo?] of the theoretical concept in question. Here, the originary word or expression takes its place as part of a translational set along with all other instances of such-and-so phenomenon in one or another society. By making such a move one does, in fact, reintroduce the task of having to translate the original term in our sense, by growing it a theoretical semantic meaning as well as an ethnographic-descriptive one. But note that the borrowed term in such comparative and theoretical discourse has a meaning different from those of either the source original or any target translation in any other natural language. 23. There are immense literatures on each one of these languages and their systems of stratified lexical registers, which are similar to each other as indexical systems in many interesting ways. The most semiotically astute treatments in modern terms are Errington’s (1988) of Javanese and Agha’s (1993, 1998) of Tibetan. See also Agha 1994 for an overview of these systems in the larger area of “honorification,” and Irvine 1995, 1998 for an analysis of the relation of cultural ideologies of honorification to the semiotics of how the indexical systems operate. – 100 –

Translation, Transduction, Transformation 24. English essentially lost the inherited and comparable thou/ye system by the end of the seventeenth century; see Silverstein 1985: 242–51 and refs. there for the explanation of its final slide into desuetude. 25. A postmodernist “Translation Studies” would debunk any pretensions to systematic grounding of “translation” by showing how the enterprise always already involves necessary transformation, let alone transduction, not to mention that the transformations are in the direction of power over/through terms in the target regime of discourse. As one says qua scientist to “Science Studies,” so what? The point is not that there is not a route to complete intercultural translation in my narrow sense such that anything goes; the point is that there is some interlinguistic translation, and that there are plausible transductions as well. And that we should be doing them. 26. And of course the wider the electorate, and the longer the time elapsed, the greater the chance that the term has come to be used outside of the technicalprofessional discourse, winding up as a layperson’s word borrowed from language to language, like taboo – which then needs translation all over again when applied to understanding the culture of the place from which it came in the first place! (See n. 22 supra.) 27. One is reminded of the conceptual mischief done by Paul Ricoeur’s (1971) “model of the text,” unfortunately invoked by Clifford Geertz in very influential contexts, in its metaphorical misidentification of the textual object with acts of “inscription” of text-artifacts! While we do, in fact, create such textartifacts, e.g. manuscript or printed transcripts of oral-aural discursive interactions, the better to be able to study them analytically, given the frailties even of our own human cognitive processing, these artifacts and the way we produce them cannot be taken as a good starting point for the notion of how coherent meaningfulness is achieved in the realtime social events of communicating. 28. A point nicely spelled out some years ago in the lengthy essay, “The Symbol and its Relative Non-arbitrariness,” by Paul Friedrich (1979 [1975]); cf. also Friedrich 1986.

Agha, Asif. “Grammatical and Indexical Convention in Honorific Discourse.” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 3, 1993, 131–63. —— “Honorification.” Annual Review of Anthropology 23, 1994, 277–302. —— “Stereotypes and Registers of Honorific Language.” Language in Society 27, 1998, 151–93. Austin, John L. How To Do Things With Words (2nd ed.). Urmson, J. O. and Marina Sbisà (eds.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 1975 [1962]. – 101 –

Michael Silverstein Bakhtin, Mikhail M. The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. Trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. Michael Holquist (ed.). Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1981. Banfield, Ann. “Where Epistemology, Style, and Grammar Meet Literary History: The Development of Represented Speech and Thought.” In Reflexive Language: Reported Speech and Metapragmatics. John A. Lucy (ed.), pp. 339–64. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993 [1978]. Bassnett, Susan and Trivedi, Harish (eds.). Post-colonial Translation: Theory and Practice. London and New York: Routledge, 1999. Berlin, Brent and Kay, Paul. Basic Color Terms:Their Universality and Evolution. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1969. Brown, Roger and Ford, Marguerite. “Address in American English.” In Language in Culture and Society: A Reader in Linguistics and Anthropology. Dell Hymes (ed.), pp. 234–44. New York: Harper and Row, 1964 [1961]. Brown, Roger and Gilman, Albert. “The Pronouns of Power and Solidarity.” In Style in Language. Thomas A. Sebeok (ed.), pp. 253–76. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1964 [1961]. Casagrande, Joseph B. “Comanche Baby Language.” In Language in Culture and Society: A Reader in Linguistics and Anthropology. Dell Hymes (ed.), pp. 245– 50. New York: Harper and Row, 1964 [1948]. Clifford, James. “On Ethnographic Authority.” Representations 1(2): 1983, pp. 118– 46. Crapanzano, Vincent. “Hermes’ Dilemma: The Masking of Subversion in Ethnographic Description.” In Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography. James Clifford and George E. Marcus (eds.), pp. 51–76. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1986. Croce, Benedetto. Aesthetic As Science of Expression and General Linguistic. Trans. Douglas Ainslie. London: Macmillan & Co. 1909; 21922. Dil, Afia. “Bengali Baby Talk.” Word 27, 1971, 11–27. Errington, J. Joseph. Structure and Style in Javanese: A Semiotic View of Linguistic Etiquette. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1988. Ferguson, Charles A. “Baby Talk in Six Languages.” The Ethnography of Communication. John J. Gumperz and Dell H. Hymes (eds.), pp. 103–14. American Anthropologist 66(6), part 2, 1964. —— “Absence of Copula and the Notion of Simplicity: A Study of Normal Speech, Baby Talk, Foreigner Talk, and Pidgins.” In Pidginization and Creolization of Languages: Proceedings . . . 1968. Dell Hymes (ed.0, pp. 141–50. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971. —— “Baby Talk as a Simplified Register.” In Talking to Children: Language Input and Acquisition. Catherine E. Snow and Charles A. Ferguson (eds.), pp. 209– 35. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977. – 102 –

Translation, Transduction, Transformation Ferguson, Charles A. and DeBose, Charles E. “Simplified Registers, Broken Language, and Pidginization.” In Pidgin and Creole Linguistics. Albert Valdman (ed.), pp. 99–125. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1977. Friedrich, Paul. “The Symbol and its Relative Non-arbitrariness.” In Language, Context, and the Imagination: Essays of Paul Friedrich. Anwar S. Dil (ed.), pp. 1–61. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1979 [1975]. —— The Language Parallax: Linguistic Relativism and Poetic Indeterminacy. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1986. Geertz, Clifford. Local Knowledge: Further Essays in Interpretive Anthropology. New York: Basic, 1983. —— Works and Lives: The Anthropologist as Author. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1988. Gentzler, Edwin. Contemporary Translation Theories. London and New York: Routledge, 1993. Grice, H. Paul. “Logic and Conversation.” In Studies in the Way of Words, pp. 3– 143. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989 [1967]. Griffiths, Paul E. What Emotions Really Are: The Problem of Psychological Categories. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997. Hinton, Leanne, Nichols, Johanna, and Ohala, John J. “Introduction: Soundsymbolic Processes.” In Sound Symbolism, pp. 1–12. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994. Hoijer, Harry. Tonkawa, An Indian Language of Texas. Extract from Handbook of American Indian Languages, vol. 3. Franz Boas (ed.). (Separately paginated.) New York: Columbia University Press, 1933. Irvine, Judith T. “Honorification.” In Handbook of Pragmatics. Jef Verschueren, Jan-Ola Östman, Jan Blommaert, and Chris Bulcaen (eds.). S.v. Separately paginated, pp. 1–22. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 1995. —— “Ideologies of Honorific Language.” In Language Ideologies: Practice and Theory. Bambi B. Schieffelin, Kathryn A. Woolard, and Paul V. Kroskrity (eds.), pp. 51–67. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. Jakobson, Roman “Why “Mama” and “Papa”?” In Selected Writings of Roman Jakobson, vol. 1, Phonological Studies, pp. 538–45. The Hague: Mouton, 1962 [1960]. —— “Signe zéro.” In Selected Writings of Roman Jakobson, vol. 2, Word and Language, pp. 211–19. The Hague: Mouton, 1971 [1939]. —— [Concluding statement:] “Linguistics and Poetics.” In Selected Writings of Roman Jakobson, vol. 3, Poetry of Grammar and Grammar of Poetry. Stephen Rudy (ed.), pp. 18–51. The Hague: Mouton, 1981 [1960]. Jakobson, Roman and Waugh, Linda R. The Sound Shape of Language. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1979.

– 103 –

Michael Silverstein Kripke, Saul A. “Naming and Necessity.” In Semantics of Natural Language. Donald Davidson and Gilbert Harman (eds.), pp. 253–355. Dordrecht: D. Reidel Publishing Co., 1972. Lee, Benjamin. Talking Heads: Language, Metalanguage, and the Semiotics of Subjectivity. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1997. Lucy, John A. Grammatical Categories and Cognition: A Case Study of the Linguistic Relativity Hypothesis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1992a. —— Language Diversity and Thought: A Reformulation of the Linguistic Relativity Hypothesis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992b. Morford, Janet H. “Social Indexicality in French Pronominal Address.” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 7, 1997, 3–37. Murphy, Gregory L. “Personal Reference in English.” Language in Society 17, 1988, 317–49. Parmentier, Richard J. The Pragmatic Semiotics of Cultures. [Special Issue.] Semiotica 116(1), 1997. Putnam, Hilary. “The Meaning of ‘Meaning’.” In Philosophical Papers, vol. 2, Mind, Language, and Reality, pp. 215–71. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1975. Quine, Willard V. Word and Object. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1960. Ricoeur, Paul V. “The Model of the Text: Meaningful Action Considered as a Text.” In Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences: Essays on Language, Action, and Interpretation. John B. Thompson (trans. and ed.), pp. 197–221. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press and Paris: Editions de la Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, 1981 [1971]. Sapir, Edward. Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1949 [1921]. Saussure, Ferdinand de. Cours de linguistique générale. Charles Bally and Albert Sèchehaye (eds.). Lausanne and Paris: Payot & Cie, 1916. Schwartz, Stephen P. (ed.). Naming, Necessity, and Natural Kinds. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1977. Searle, John R. Speech Acts: An Essay in the Philosophy of Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969. Silverstein, Michael. “Language and the Culture of Gender: At the Intersection of Structure, Usage, and Ideology.” In Semiotic Mediation: Sociocultural and Psychological Perspectives. Elizabeth Mertz and Richard J. Parmentier (eds.), pp. 219–59. Orlando, FL: Academic Press, 1985. —— “Cognitive Implications of a Referential Hierarchy.” In Social and Functional Approaches to Language and Thought. Maya Hichman (ed.), pp. 125–64. Orlando, FL: Academic Press, 1987. —— “Of Nominatives and Datives: Universal Grammar from the Bottom up.” In Advances in Role and Reference Grammar. Robert D. Van Valin, Jr. (ed.), pp. 465–98. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 1993. – 104 –

Translation, Transduction, Transformation —— “Relative Motivation in Denotational and Indexical Sound Symbolism of Wasco-Wishram Chinookan.” In Sound Symbolism. Leanne Hinton, Johanna Nichols, and John J. Ohala (eds.), pp. 40–60. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994. —— “Indexical Order and the Dialectics of Sociolinguistic Life.” Symposium About Language and Society – Austin [SALSA] 3: 266–95. (=Texas Linguistic Forum, no. 36 [Austin, TX: University of Texas, Department of Linguistics]), 1996. —— “Whorfianism and the Linguistic Imagination of Nationality.” In Regimes of Language: Ideologies, Polities, and Identities. Paul V. Kroskrity (ed.), pp. 85– 138. Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research Press, 2000. —— “Naming Sets among the Worora.” ms.a [1980]. Silverstein, Michael and Urban, Greg. “The Natural History of Discourse.” In Natural Histories of Discourse. Michael Silverstein & Greg Urban (eds.), pp. 1– 17. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996. Sperber, Dan. Explaining Culture: A Naturalistic Approach. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1996. Steiner, George. After Babel: Aspects of Language and Translation. London and New York: Oxford University Press, 1975. 3rd ed. 1998. Venuti, Lawrence (ed.). The Translation Studies Reader. London and New York: Routledge, 2000. Whorf, Benjamin Lee. “Science and Linguistics.” In Language, Thought, and Reality: Selected Writings of Benjamin Lee Whorf. John B. Carroll (ed.), pp. 207– 19. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1956a [1940]. —— “The Relation of Habitual Thought and Behavior to Language.” In LTR. pp. 134–59, 1956b [1941]. —— “Grammatical Categories.” In LTR, pp. 87–101. 1956c [1945].

– 105 –


Part II Specific Applications .


and yet we know that translation. The act of translating terms-in-context is a useful fiction because it suggests that we can identify the meanings that social actors intend. designed to illuminate how and for what the words are used. viewed pragmatically rather than referentially. that we cannot really translate at all. And so the central paradox emerges: the plausibility of our accounts depends on a device that is itself predicated on an imaginative act of empathy with informants. the simple fact that. we make translation the key metaphor of our reporting. This is a commonsense approach – but it fails to ask whose common sense is being invoked. We translate by declaring the terms untranslatable. (Greek shepherds and peasants say much the same thing about knowing other people’s intentions. But in fact this position. For most ethnographers. just as we do in our own everyday lives. as John Leavitt (1996) has observed. is not an affectation at all. and similarly keep guessing at them. without which ethnographic description would be impossible. Our descriptions. yet we cannot dispense with it – any more than we could survive without reifying the categories of ordinary social life. Whorfian extremists. deprecatingly suggest that the language of the other is so different. translating local terms as though they had stable meanings is intellectually indigestible. We write as though we deduced those intuitions from regularly occurring actions and contexts. so exotic. We all engage in this fiction. even those of us who believe that psychological inner states are neither attributable to whole populations nor even safely identifiable in individuals write our best ethnographic vignettes as though we could do both those things. in this sense.) But what else can we do? – 109 – . like comparison in Evans-Pritchard’s famous adage. We are all.– 4– The Unspeakable in Pursuit of the Ineffable: Representations of Untranslatability in Ethnographic Discourse Michael Herzfeld Problems of Translation My title paraphrases Oscar Wilde’s memorable description of an English gentleman hunting a fox. is ultimately impossible. if only by affectation. It is. rather.

But whether they view ethnography as a practice of translation (Beidelman 1970. engaged in a project that requires some degree of understanding of what translation entails. willy-nilly. by contrast. Meanings are given as though they were largely constant and predictable. has to devise means of making the trip seem quite unnecessary – to be an authoritative guide to the reader. This has to do with the difference between ethnography and fiction at the most basic level. anthropologists are. and their choice of key terms veers between expressions of modest uncertainty about the validity of their translations and implicit but unmistakable claims to epistemological authority. sometimes with contextual information that shows the extent and variety of observed variation. ethnographic translations are attempts to explain the cultural knowledge that local actors bring to their interpretations of each other’s actions. however flawed. Following Gregory Bateson (1958: 1) and Michael Jackson (personal communication. everything is at the level of collective representation because even highly individualistic acts are usually mentioned for the light they shed on communal values or on the scope of deviation. Geertz 1973) or contest that characterization as expressing a hegemonic relationship with the world (Asad 1993). The very choice of marginal communities – and sometimes of marginalized viewpoints within them (Steedly 1993: 31) – is often a strategic and methodological device with which to explore the very forces that decide what is marginal or central. returned home and writing up. this charming conceit is at best an impracticable dream: imagine thousands of anthropologists all “set down” in the coral reefs of the Trobriands. enterprises. In an ethnography. to specify cultural principles. the translation of local terms is an attempt. – 110 – . There are those who view all anthropology as a form of translation. And so the ethnographer. their discourse is littered with attempts at contextualization of the kind that would drive any lexicographer to despair. Their access to key data is through languages of which they have variably competent understandings. I subscribe to the view that the major difference between these two representational genres concerns their management of psychological explicitness: a novelist usually backgrounds all the formal cultural principles that the ethnographer would want to spell out.Michael Herzfeld Here I shall argue that the difficulty disappears if we treat ethnographic translation and literary translation as two different. once wrote that the purpose of a translation from the (ancient) Greek was achieved when the reader threw it away and began to learn the language of the original (1954). but does describe innermost thoughts (see Herzfeld 1997b: 23). Crick 1976. In the case of ethnography. cited in Herzfeld 1997b: 24). as a literary translator would do. the late classicist Philip Vellacott. if closely related. In this context. Instead of dealing with translations as devices of art for the purpose of releasing the text from its dependence on prior cultural knowledge. My old mentor.

the modern Greek language presents a particular set of epistemological issues for the critical ethnographer. it is never quite clear what “its” language really is. its language enshrines many of the most piquant paradoxes of its dual role as incarnation of Hellas and orientalized land of unredeemable marginality. Indeed. given the hegemonic construction of modern Greek identity under the shadow of foreign models of its ancient predecessors. translation offers both the only logically available means of communicating Greek culture to outsiders and a guarantee that such communication will be severely limited. First. I shall try to deal especially with what I consider to be two central issues: first. A third point again concerns intentionality: if the Greeks themselves generally hold a skeptical view of the possibility of deciphering psychological inner states. Why Greece? The ethnography of Greece is extremely suggestive for our present discussion. in a country where one of the defenses against external hegemonies consists in arguing that the Greek language is impenetrable to foreigners. and second. yet it continues to appear as the discourse of the unfashionable political Right and. The problem becomes especially intractable when what is to be translated is itself the language of intentionality and – 111 – . katharevousa (see Ferguson 1959). and in a related vein. I shall approach this from two angles. the politics of translation (as well as transliteration). I shall especially take advantage of the fact that. I am dealing with a language with a richly documented past. The “high register” of its diglossic pair.The Unspeakable in Pursuit of the Ineffable In this chapter. If modern Greece holds up a looking-glass to the discipline that shares with it a history of elaborating the meaning of “the West” (Herzfeld 1987). as an ironic shadow for those who instead can still mimic its orotund pomposity. that of my reading of colleagues’ and predecessors’ attempts and that of my own difficulties as I moved among different genres. how far does the very idea of translation violate their own culturally routinized skepticism? This is a particularly delicate issue because. it is something of a test case for Asad’s gloomy dismissal of translation as the key to anthropological understanding: is the power of the dominant models of Hellas so great as to render our attempts to decipher the modern culture irretrievably Sisyphean? Or might it be that a determined appeal to Greek frameworks that do not hew to the official line could destabilize precisely those after-effects of Enlightenment intellectual despotism? Second. I propose to explore these issue by discussing the representation of “other meanings” in ethnographic description. as I have primarily worked in various forms of modern Greek to date. was officially abolished over two decades ago. much more significantly. the intractable problem of intentionality as this is related to etymological history.

with its further implications of a comprehensive. On the other hand. and almost none of the younger ones have experienced katharevousa as the living fossil it was thirty years ago. politically charged language play. as Austin (1971) demonstrated in respect of excuses.Michael Herzfeld inner knowledge. is the uncontrolled sexual attraction that undermines the moral restraints and social decorum of formally arranged marriages. it is clear that this is a social representation and begs no questions about actual credence. and Greece is. Yet few anthropologists now working in Greece know classical tongue or New Testament Greek. conceived in a world where what defines a Christian is inherited sinfulness rather than socially innocent sanctity (Campbell 1964: 326. since faith. the term “belief” cannot serve as a gloss on the collective psychological inner states of other peoples. If. some elements of the classical and New Testament term pistis. They may believe. Since this view of faith undergirds the socially sanctioned reluctance to challenge the honesty of fellow-villagers yet whom one may not trust. far from being socially – 112 – . here following doctrinal prescription. precisely because of its own ambiguous entailment in those processes. I may be the only non-Greek anthropologist to have endured a year of classes in strict katharevousa. it is inimical to questioning of any kind at all. and helped me see that rhetoric. This prepared me well for today’s constant. however. NT agape). What are we to make of the fact that Greek “belief” thus looks further removed from – and certainly more resolutely social than – its classical and religious moorings than do ordinary English usages? Or is this perception simply the effect of a hegemony that claims both the classical and the Christian heritage for a West unprepared to grant equality to its orientalized client state in today’s Greece? These problems are compounded for us by the historical entailment of anthropology as a discipline in the Western project of world domination. the modern Greek version of New Testament “love” (MG aghapi. Although Campbell translates pistevoume as “we believe” (1964: 323). desexualized concept of “love” (cf. as Needham (1972) has argued. this is in part because the English-language term preserves. an excellent vantage point for further exploration. Our recognition of this entailment is what makes anthropology today such a strong source of insight into the workings of cultural hegemony. is taken to be incompatible with doubt (see Herzfeld 1997a: 123). German lieben) (Needham 1972: 42). by etymological association. but neither can we literally know whether they do nor is it particularly relevant for normal social purposes. Indeed. Just how important is this historical connection? On the one hand. Herzfeld 1997a: 119). it is not necessary for a speaker to be consciously aware of language history for an excuse to be socially plausible: the aura of antiquity – what Austin called “trailing clouds of etymology” (1971: 99–100) – usually suffices. moreover. those socially recognized as faithful in a religious sense do not depend on actual belief for this reputation. and indeed its effects might be dissipated by too analytic an examination of their implicit claims.

one that many Greeks themselves explicitly described. the late Harry Levy.The Unspeakable in Pursuit of the Ineffable epiphenomenal. where the semantic instability of brief encounters is rarely a serious issue. these first ethnographies (Campbell 1964. But by that same token they also set a pattern that less well-informed successors came to accept uncritically in respect of the prevailing assumptions about meaning and translation. I suggest – ultimately allow us to view the translation of purely linguistic elements from a relatively pragmatic and grounded perspective. too. it allows a kind of shorthand referentiality: the reader is first educated into the significance of the term by “seeing” it used in a set of diagnostic contexts. after which its appearance in the text is routinized and assumed to be semantically stable. necessitating a re-examination of how they translated certain terms. John Campbell also knew the classical language before he went into the field. Heelas and Lock 1981. The purpose of providing original terms is a double one. The consequences of this move conflict with one of anthropologists’ commonest assumptions: that the personal intentions behind declarations of affect or motive are opaque. Friedl 1962) constitute sites of linguistically well-informed analysis. when it was discovered that informants were disobligingly apt to use terms in ways that were not predicted by “the kinship terminology” (see especially Karp 1978). albeit in very different ways. Rosen 1995). the recurrence of foreign words serves to remind the reader that no translation is ever perfect. On the one hand. I came to believe that any description of social structure and cultural form would be incomplete without due recognition of this quality. That this was not altogether wise perhaps first became apparent in kinship studies. but cf. Thus. Cohen – 113 – . Many anthropologists provide glossaries of key terms or insert such terms with one-on-one translations in the main texts of their ethnographies. ethnographers have elaborated a device derived from philology and history. This seems to be the basic assumption made by the editors of the three major collections of ethnographic approaches to sentiment and psychology (Lutz and Abu-Lughod 1990. provide us with rich details that – as in all good ethnography. and here the problems become more serious. so that all the anthropologist can do is to record the representations of such inner states and observe people’s reactions. the idea that economic categories would permit the conflation of local practices with national legal norms has obscured the long-standing resistance to the institution of the dowry in precisely those communities where this stereotypically “traditional Greek custom” has been most vividly present. It is consistent with the detailed logical critique advanced by Rodney Needham (1972. could be constitutive of social relations. and that the author can reliably interpret native speakers’ intentions. Both writers. Of the first two major English-speaking ethnographers of Greece. Analogously. while Ernestine Friedl was accompanied by her classicist husband. that the author is watching out for possible misinterpretations. Rather than playing a deliberate game of deception. On the other hand.

Only the compiler of a socially decontextualized lexicography could entertain the possibility of meanings divorced from actors’ intentions. To what extent should we isolate semantics from other kinds of meaning? There are those who would prefer to separate the two kinds of meaning (which I am presenting here as fundamentally of a single kind) in the same way that they object to the identification of a local theory of meaning that. That subjectivity is always “about” something collectively presumed to exist (Jackson 1996: 29). when I interpret Cretan shepherds as having a “theory of meaning. We would do well to pay close attention to ordinary-language usage here. . Leavitt 1996). trying to learn something from. Just 1987). in a lucid statement that captures the pragmatic necessities entailed in the task of translation. Ethnographers are social actors too. That position makes perfectly good sense in the context of an academic world that seeks forms of pure reference.g.” Such a theory may not recognize or privilege intentionality at all. “readers should not mistake these representations of others’ speech for the actual presence of other voices . then at least social actors agree on the existence of something subjective. and about. Thus. 1997a). we should really be asking what the speaker “meant” – that is. but knowing what it does entail should help us understand how the absence of any such recognition can coexist with actions that appear to presuppose intentions and motives – the attribution of venality by people who claim one can never read others’ minds is a case in point. instead. Meaning implies intention. But the separation of meaning from context is grounded in a cosmology that. and one basis of their intersubjective relationship with their informants lies in the similarity of the translational tasks in which both are continually involved. this striking difference from both our own referentialist assumptions and those of the Greek bureaucratic state (see Herzfeld 1985a. in other cultural settings. I also remain unimpressed by the argument that these shepherds have taken the term simasia from formal (and partly katharevousa) discourse: their ability to use simasia for a very different understanding of meaning than that of the learned writers from whom they may indeed have indirectly – 114 – . with its underlying “folk theory.Michael Herzfeld 1994. makes very little sense. And translation depends on a recognition of that commonality. . whether or not they agree about its significance. For if inner life can be represented. fractured though its image must be through the uneven glass of our instruments of perception and reproduction: as Mary Steedly writes of her translations of her informants’ narratives. and it is a fair reflection of many folk theories as well. I am not ignoring the fact that they “conflate” semantic and social meaning. I am.” which they indicate by their discussions of the concept of simasia. any more than they should regard the stories themselves as unmediated and disinterested accounts of ‘real’ experience” (1993: 37). But it potentially sidesteps an important issue. intended – by it. conflates semantics (“this word means X”) with social importance (“that action doesn’t mean anything”) (e. from their perspective. when we ask what a word means.

they deal with texts for which there is usually assumed to be an original version (Urtext). (These shepherds are adepts at turning the mechanisms of state against officialdom. indeed. in a well-known essay on the relevance of history to anthropology (Evans-Pritchard 1962: 46–65). on the referential meaning of “statements. Even for Evans-Pritchard the charge is partial. as Fabian (1983) in particular acknowledges.The Unspeakable in Pursuit of the Ineffable borrowed the term itself supports their. A word of caution is in order. Although few classicists today take a narrowly referential view of meaning. Thus the use of standardized translations and a classical mode of transliteration obliterates the play of actors’ perhaps quite divergent intentions in favor of structural unity and images of social stability and equilibrium. and the theory informing the practice may entail a rejection of the stated principles. the possibility of a total absence of conscious intention altogether. we can rely on the constancy of that meaning wherever it appears – and. at the same time. it is the apparent transparency of official-sounding words in everyday speech that makes ethnographic translation such an interesting issue. Indeed. The assumption of referentiality has particular resonances in the Greek context. however. even if contextualized. Fabian 1983: 41). It occludes the possibility of intentions other than those sanctioned by the official semantics – or. all this shows that claims about intentions are key elements of social performance even when generalizations about intentionality seem to preclude the very possibility. although his selfdeprecation does at least enable us to extract a clear sense of how the unequal terms – 115 – . For it suggests that if we know what a word or phrase means (as opposed to what So-and-so means by it). and my. cf.” as opposed to their performative force (whether intended or not) – an insight central to Austin’s entire philosophy. since the British scholar addressed questions of historicity both within his ethnographic writing and. But let me return briefly to intentionality here. sense of the limits of referentiality. as this might be taken to mean that the early ethnographers of Greece were guilty of the ahistoricism of which Evans-Pritchard has been accused (see Rosaldo 1986: 93. as when they make police officers eat the meat the shepherds have just stolen and then inform their guests that the latter have just consumed the evidence!) Indeed. try to read it. fixed in time as well as form. but one can also. confuses performance with intent. One may declare that it is impossible to read another’s mind. or at least make attributions of motive that suggest that possibility. The stated theory may be at odds with actual practice. This harmonizes with the nationalist image of a classical culture that has undergone frequent distortions but that will be fully reconstituted today – a premise few Greeks seem to accept! The use of transliteration systems that recall the classical alphabet reinforces that referential illusion and lends ethnographic texts a spurious semantic stability. A referential representation of meaning. This is where a referential view of language especially fails. perhaps most notably. by extension. But Evans-Pritchard still frames his account as though the larger context of power were secondary.

and rarely notes evidence that certain terms were almost certainly reintroductions via the standardized national language. however. more passively. Modern Greece was fundamentally a land created as a reincarnation of ancient Hellas. together given it birth and assured its survival under conditions of constant surveillance. now made obedient to its modern descendants – the western Europeans – who had. paid to their sense of the past and its relationship to encompassing geopolitical struggles that still continue. Friedl (1962) adopts a modern phonemic transcription method – a device that was not followed by most subsequent writers on the ethnography of Greece for some twenty years or more thereafter. a historian as well as an anthropologist. Leach 1961). to mention the villagers’ awareness of it – her book is significantly subtitled A Village in Modern Greece – but it meant sacrificing the etymological sensibility of Campbell’s writings. Moreover. briefly (1962: 106). while Friedl (1962: 106). old habits die hard. and because in the Greek cases we have one of the ideologically most sensitive fields for considering the issue. Friedl’s method was perhaps ideologically more neutral. I have dwelt on the issue of transliteration at some length because the politics of transliteration often gets short shrift in discussions of ethnographic representation. For many Greeks the links with the ancient past. and it suited her insistence that she did not want to deal with the classical past except. Perhaps in part because of the symbolic importance of Greece in the constellation of European history. Nonetheless. transliteration sets a key for knowledgeable readers’ response to the translations that accompany it. which foreigners saw as corrupted by Turkish and Slavic influence and as evidence that the Greek people – 116 – .Michael Herzfeld on which he confronted the Nuer affected both his methods and the results he obtained by them. and that those who lacked this knowledge would probably not care. notes that the inhabitants of the village where she worked had learned to invoke classical mythology as a keystone for their national identity. Campbell opted for using the Greek alphabet. 307). Campbell pays particular attention to the nationalist arguments over the origins of transhumant groups in the region (1964: 1–6) and documents shepherds’ awareness of their antecedents in the War of Independence and the way they learn this awareness in their childhood (1964: 2–3. But it may have overdetermined some subsequent readings of his work. both Campbell and Friedl were acutely aware from the start that they were operating in a cultural space where history was the object of an intense political struggle over the definition of the past. Campbell’s approach was appropriate in a context when he could safely assume that many educated readers had enough ancient Greek to make the national alphabet the appropriate medium. It would have made little sense to do fieldwork in even the most illiterate Greek community – and the Sarakatsani perhaps qualified for that title – without the regard that Campbell. in a paradox reminiscent of many origin myths (see Drummond 1981.

that women tended to use the Turkish names of local communities that had been given Greek names by the state authorities. Campbell found Romanian claims on the Sarakatsani and their territories absurd because they were based on bad philology and bad historical method. Friedl. whose ethnography was written for a less specialist audience in a country where a much smaller percentage of her readership could be expected to decipher the Greek alphabet. apparently because their relative lack of engagement in the public sphere sheltered them to some extent from knowledge of official changes (1962: 7. Thus the politics of language choice – including questions of transliteration – was also a politics of temporality and cultural identity. These early ethnographers were. It is all the more remarkable. and there was little discussion of issues that the rise of sociolinguistics in the same decade was to invest with central importance. too. although she recognizes points of language that have subsequently become highly important in the confrontation between social anthropology and Greek nationalist historiography – notably. he did not have to deal with similar problems in Greek historiography as he probably would have been forced to do had he decided. Words at the Wedding: Sarakatsan Agonism Campbell’s description of wedding practices remains unmatched. faithful to the philhellenic vision. When he wrote. to deal instead with non-Greek-speaking minority groups in Greece. and will conclude with some examples from my own attempts to grapple with these issues across a wide spectrum ranging from Cretan shepherds to a cosmopolitan if traditionalizing novelist – whose work poses special challenges for potential choices between “literary” and “literal” (or “ethnographic”) translations. under these conditions.The Unspeakable in Pursuit of the Ineffable belonged to the European past rather than the present. actually seems more innocent of the ideological issues. the choices made by ethnographers could not but be ideologically fraught. and that was now supposed to dissolve – leaving only a suggestive residue – in the goodwill created by the new relationship. in general terms. cf. I shall now examine some of the translations encountered in Campbell’s and Friedl’s work. had not yet occurred. that he provided the detailed assessment of shifting contexts that we encounter in his ethnography despite the lingering flavor of a classicizing philology. were their sole inalienable lien on modernity. the “monotonic” reform of Greek. Under these circumstances. – 117 – . as some of his successors chose. Karakasidou 1997). which removed one of its most visible but phonetically least justified resemblances with ancient Greek. When he did his fieldwork. the Sarakatsani still engaged in highly ritualized enactments of the mutual hostility that normatively governed relations between the two groups being affinally conjoined. turning thereafter in much the same vein to some more recent studies.

the act of “return” (the bride’s first visit to her natal home with her new husband and his close male kin). when a rainstorm breaks out. which uses generic Epirot dialect forms. even in the late 1950s. “return” – may be relatively recent importations from official language. for a Sarakatsan shepherd to absorb formal phrases from the radio or even from someone with a smattering of grade-school education. is methodical in its description of the ritualized stages of this process. conventional greetings shared by the two groups of new affines. It is interesting. first of all. and he gives the text of the song of praise in a footnote. Campbell offers us a way of making sense of a society in which aggressive overtures may be a prelude to violence but may also be a means of creating mutual respect and alliance. a song in which the groom’s kin declare their good intentions and their admiration for the hospitality they have received from the bride’s natal family. and is embedded in a detailed account of the ideology whereby marriage provides the balance against the atomized.” uttered in anticipation of the bride’s “return” visit. and the term for a married couple (1964: 132–138). He notes the terms for the affinal relationship itself. He does not provide the original of the phrase “We shall wait for you. Campbell. all the other terms are in standard Greek. Their obvious association with the learnèd elite enhanced their local prestige within the local community while bringing it more firmly within the state’s cultural embrace. causing the bride’s party to – 118 – . a ritual exchange object (the special loaf of bread known as the “bread of the bride”). the term for the five young men who ride ahead of the groom’s party that goes to claim the bride from her parents. did not accept the idealized picture that accompanied such formalism – as we see in his detailed descriptions of social tension (for example. Campbell’s description. With the exception of the song. agonistic quality of most social relations in this society. In this description. as a sensitive ethnographer. which set the model for my own explorations of the ways in which reciprocal animal-theft led to alliances between shepherds. All the other terms I have mentioned here are given in Greek. a formulaic expression in which the bride’s male kin ritualistically object to the groom’s kinsmen’s first attempt to take the trousseau away with them. This mixture of terms establishes early on the absurdity of treating local and official usage as hermetically discrete entities. In accordance with Ferguson’s (1959) model. By thus conjoining a description of ritual form with an explanation of Sarakatsan ideas about the quality of social relationships. he inserts relatively few Greek expressions. It would not have required much literacy. to note which of the terms Campbell chose to translate are given in Greek. and some – notably epistrofi.Michael Herzfeld There is a pattern of such transformations of negative into positive affect (or at least reciprocity) in Greek society generally. the decay of the diglossic structure of Greek – hastened by its association with the military regime of 1967–74 – resulted in a “mixed” idiom spoken more or less by all Greeks.

It can hardly be coincidental that this phrase. Such descriptions show that even the most formal norms and cosmological precepts are elements in a complex process of negotiation. erupts into the text as one irrepressible local voice. Indeed. But he does not spell this out. one of the most central segments of his book. Campbell’s awareness of the history of the Greek language and his own delicate sense of nuance allowed him to preserve in this.” Doubtless for the purposes of his ethnography this seemed sufficient. when Campbell describes the interactions between shepherds and educated Greeks. a division of labor that was ultimately harmful to the study of both society and language. More often than not his invocation of local phrases allows him. so redolent of what Campbell identifies as the fundamentally agonistic quality of Sarakatsan life. For it entrenched the idea that language use was epiphenomenal – whether to social relations or to our knowledge of “the language” – and so obscured the role of linguistic politics and ideologies in the management of everyday relationships. as with the phrase indexing “in-law trouble. emphasizing both the unequal use of “pronouns of power and solidarity” (Brown and Gilman 1960) and the political and economic inequalities that these asymmetrical usages index. The one Greek phrase that Campbell reports from the less prepossessing side of social relations is the phrase for “the affines have got into a fight. what I have said about Campbell’s use of Greek in this passage applies to the whole book. That such events are common is clear from his description. especially of the extent to which bystanders are usually “uncharitably amused” by such intimations of discord (1964: 137).” to avoid an actual – 119 – . yet it often implies a degree of physical violence (or at least the potential for it) that is not revealed by the gloss. At the time when he was writing there had been very little sociolinguistic work of any sort on Greece. With only minor variations. and a reader who knew no Greek would only get part of the picture. he allows us to see how the choice of linguistic forms actually helps to determine or perpetuate the quality of social relations.The Unspeakable in Pursuit of the Ineffable demand her immediate return home while the groom’s party responded with a fusillade and the irate response that it would be unlucky for the bride even to look round at her parents’ home). apparently a commonly heard one. that marks dissent in a society that generally does not display to outsiders anything that might redound to its collective discredit. a strong sense of the play of formality and adventurism that is so characteristic of these rather rebellious citizens of a bureaucratic state that in turn treats them with considerable disregard. The phrase breaks the otherwise unruffled surface of formality on the one side and bucolic innocence (portrayed in the song) on the other. as it did elsewhere.” which he simply paraphrases in English as “in-law trouble. and this ethnographic illumination thus effectively counterbalances the formality suggested by Campbell’s choice of translated words and phrases as significant. and its arrival on the scene created.

1956) than it did that of Peristiany. Campbell’s work contributed to the debate precisely because it showed that the components of the local morality were specific to a complex cosmology in which these rather dour and not terribly law-abiding shepherds managed to calibrate their view of their social world to the teachings of the Orthodox Church. suggesting that. Campbell thus pushed Evans-Pritchard’s rehistoricizing of ethnography. and although honor was a key word in the title – that required conformity with this paradigm. But they turned the doctrine of Original Sin to their own purposes. by extreme example. Evans-Pritchard (1940. At no point in his ethnography does he argue that Sarakatsan values are typical of Greece. – 120 – . but to give us instead a contextualized account of how a word or phrase is used and interpreted. Campbell did not so much “translate” the term ipokhreosi into the relatively colorless “obligation” as show how it served to link unstable vertical alliances with politicians to the internal theodicy of Sarakatsan society. Honorable Intentions? This is especially true in his discussion of terms he glosses as honor and shame. to its logical conclusion. as some have done (but see Gilmore 1990: 25 for a more nuanced view). Campbell does explore the notion of timi in some detail. they illuminate the complex relations between state and ecclesiastic authorities and their ideologically loyal but pragmatically insubordinate followers in ways that help us to understand the dynamics of superficially less “exotic” segments of the overall population. I soon found that its generalizing translations obscured rather than illuminated what I encountered in fieldwork. with the added twist of a doctrinal tradition at odds with the social practices of his informants. He makes no self-authorizing claims about the untranslatability of terms but meticulously documents words and phrases that he sees as significant to local actors. There was in fact nothing in Campbell’s book – although he had studied with Peristiany. E. Recognizing this. In some ways the notion of obligation is more central to the work than that of honor. as a displacement of male humiliation.Michael Herzfeld translation. As a somewhat critical heir – trained by Campbell himself – to the “Mediterraneanist” tradition to which these values were central (see Peristiany 1965). let alone the whole Mediterranean region. Campbell thus brought state and local society into a juxtaposition that is far more complex than simply treating the honor code. Rather. In this regard his work more closely resembled that of E. with its rejection of Radcliffe-Brown’s (1952: 1) insistence on achronic and “nomothetic” descriptions. The Sarakatsani had no choice but to engage with the ecclesiastical as well as the temporal authorities. thereby giving a specifically theological as well as social depth to their morality.

he is describing a Sarakatsan value with a traceable “family likeness” – although one that admits of wide variation (Herzfeld 1980) – that it shares with similar values. “love of timii (honor). the adjectival term filotimos frequently is applied to specific individuals. however. they predicate future actions on an attributed sense of obligation. Generalized talk of “honor” obscures this dimension and leaves the field open to relatively mechanistic – 121 – . and is insured against excessive reliance on a single powerful figure. an unfortunate necessity for poor shepherds forced to depend on rich and powerful outsiders. When Sarakatsani or other Greeks gossip about the motives of some miscreant. When the term is lifted from his ethnography to bolster arguments about generalized Mediterranean culture. We have moved here from the sense of honor as a simple gloss on a historically rich English word to Campbell’s sophisticated reading of a term taken from formal Greek discourse and imbued with ideas that represent a local adaptation to ecumenical doctrine. But this ethnographic specificity carries its own traps. more generically. anthropologists were never much concerned with “typicality” in Greece. But this apparent duplicity allows a maximization of both political and moral capital: the voter creates multiple strands of mutual obligation. of all Greeks. is justified in terms of the pervasive imperfection of human society and specifically of the moral community – a concept that Campbell takes from Evans-Pritchard – of the Sarakatsani and. The filotimos man is one who observes his obligations: his patron feels he can be trusted to vote in accordance with their pact. The sense of obligation here is tied to a very specific type of transaction and has nothing to do with a generic sense of honor in the abstract. does not actually lie to any one of his patrons. What is the extent of the shepherd’s loyalty to his patron? I have heard villagers on Crete describe how they will try to engage the services of more than one political patron by splitting the household’s several votes among competing candidates.The Unspeakable in Pursuit of the Ineffable while the substantive filotimo. it ceases to be the value of the Sarakatsani and becomes reconfigured to fit the analyst’s preconceptions. often marked by roughly the same set of terms. found throughout Greece. they are not contradicting the widely held Greek view that it is impossible to gauge the intentions of another person. Above all what is lost here is the sense of intentionality. Greeks generally insist that one cannot read others’ minds – but that premise is itself a part of the complex of ideas and practices through which Greeks talk about each other. Even the relatively innocuous duplicity that it entails. When Campbell talks about honor.” rarely if ever appears in Sarakatsan speech. It is very much a social arrangement. we do know that they frequently make claims about having done so. We do not even know whether they believe that it is possible to know another person’s mind. In similar vein. This is made possible by the deep specificity of the ethnography itself: as Friedl (1976) remarked some years later. They are simply joining in a guessing game that is itself part of the process of making and breaking reputations.

Despite the brevity of her book. political commitment (Loizos 1975: 301. the living room of a house and the market area of the village). 76). n. Friedl is also a meticulous contextualizer. or the response to inquiries about work (palevoume. Paine 1989) – interesting exercises in their own right. although Friedl does not mention this. and for whom the historical origins of the Sarakatsani themselves shed an interesting light on the Balkan politics of national identity. spaces that mark important social boundaries (for example. however. ksehazmena) (p.Michael Herzfeld applications of game theory (e. If certain phrases seem to be repetitious. and social institutions and socially validated objects (such as the elements of dowry and trousseau). she implies. but also a place that we recognize: a place where the performance of intention. for whose Sarakatsani the relatively recent history of the Greek War of Independence (1821–27) is a living entity. such as the reiterated assurance in respect of unpleasantness that “what is past is forgotten” (perazmena. but lacking that sense of tension between the socially observable and the personally ineffable that we find so richly present in Campbell’s distinctly Evans-Pritchardian evocation of the “moral community” – a place of paradox and ambiguity. 87) – implying. this is because their constant reiteration provides a means for the villagers to affirm their worldview – a worldview as opaque to individual differences as the villagers are secretive about aspects of themselves. Economic Facts and Fictions Ernestine Friedl’s ethnography (1962) presents relatively few terms in Greek. Unlike Campbell. Friedl – whose explicit goal is to turn the anthropological focus on a contemporary Western society – is here interested in the – 122 – . Because the portrait she paints of a proclivity to use clichés frequently rings true for anyone who has spent time in Greece. Friedl also supplies Greek terms and translations for social categories (such as ritual kin). the excuse that those in authority never educate “us” properly. 2). and the ability to fulfill one’s obligations reveals the impossibility of securely knowing about others’ individual morality even while we depend on being able to act as though we could do exactly that. Gambetta 1988. Her choice of a phonemic transliteration places the community squarely in present time. the hurt “how was I to know?” when it turns out the speaker did not have the right equipment to do a particular job (p. One element that her work nevertheless shares with Campbell’s is the illustrative use of clichés for recurrent situations.g. “we are wrestling”) that mark a conventional parallel between one’s social relations in an agonistic society and those into which one enters with a harsh and capricious natural environment (Friedl 1962: 75). the further impression is created that the referentiality of the socially salient terms is unproblematic.

Indeed. But it is interesting nevertheless to note how this ‘flat” temporality meshes with the effects of a purely phonemic transliteration system and the array of entirely conventional phrases that adorns the text. Indeed. As a result. in consequence. But these transliterations have the advantage of not begging any questions about possible links with antiquity. recalling the truly embittering pressure that the dowry system – formally abolished only in 1984 – placed on fathers and daughters. she is able to acknowledges the Greeks’ acquired pride in the classical past without participating in its nationalistic implications. “bitterness” (cf. on precisely these grounds (Pinsent 1986). Doubtless her choice of a very ordinary village made such a generalized sense of the past almost inevitable. By contrast. Classicists dislike such transliterations. precisely because they conceal potentially interesting etymologies. a phonemic transliteration captures the dialect pun conjoining prika (dowry) with its homonym prika.The Unspeakable in Pursuit of the Ineffable past only inasmuch as she notes the villagers’ highly generalized awareness of classical antiquity through. or – 123 – . as she shows. standard – and ancient – pikra). notwithstanding her aversion – which I share – to making claims about typicality. the patron of strangers.” we are all the more forcibly reminded that this is an erudite conceit. the conventionality of both the everyday phrases and these invocations of a rather newly acquired historicity mask any degree of individual critique or reaction. While scholars who had a genuine acquaintance with rural practice managed quite explicitly to avoid these assumptions (Levy 1956). she was one of the first contributors to our awareness of the burdens of the dowry system (see also Skouteri-Didaskalou 1991).” thereby suggesting to the philologically informed the etymologically correct derivation from ancient Greek proix (stem proik-). Thus it is significant and salutary that an anthropologist with distinguished access to classical idioms chose instead to adopt a resolutely modernist transliteration. Thus. so that when Friedl (1962: 106) tells us how the villagers invoke Ksenios Zefs and then has to explain that this is “Zeus. while Friedl did not discuss this kind of linguistic elaboration (but see Herzfeld 1980). This in turn may lead to some curious assumptions about continuity between ancient and modern social institutions. the use of a classical and Erasmean transliteration will produce proika for the term usually glossed as “dowry. a highly sanitized official rendition. incorporated into village consciousness through processes that have also fashioned our own uncritical assumptions about cultural continuity. On the other hand. the impact of choice in transliteration is vitally important because it may determine a whole range of associations and. the significance readers will attribute to particular utterances and the larger values and events they metonymically represent. Although it rests on a matter of fine detail. for some conservative local actors the classical association legitimated the status quo. I have myself been taken to task for not using an Erasmean method of transliterating Greek. Yet we know that Greek villagers do not all act alike.

Michael Herzfeld evaluate each others’ actions in wholly consistent terms. Campbell – despite more numerous generalized descriptions of what people do at marriage, in a fight or feud, and so on – offers numerous highly individualized vignettes consistent with a society in which eccentricity exists even if it is not always approved: John Charisis who in tearing his shirt to shreds at weddings illustrates the idiosyncrasy known as khouï (Campbell 1964: 45–46), the man who discreetly throws a stone to warn a man beating his daughter that this excessive behavior has gone too far (1964: 190), the father who harangues a scholastically inept daughter without criticizing his wife for comforting her (1964: 157). Such incidents provide agency-sensitive specificity for terms and concepts, rendering purely referential translations increasingly redundant and indeed inadequate. Friedl offers much less of this specificity. Her villagers are by no means flat, lifeless figures; they are simply not so dramatically present. This is in part the result of a difference between the two settings: the Sarakatsani, even if not always fully tolerant of the eccentricity that leads to excess (for which Campbell invoked the term khouï), live in a world of performances both dramatic and aggressive, while Vasilika is a settled agricultural community where calm is highly valued. But in part, too, it reflects the cultural bias of the tradition within which Friedl was writing – a search for configurations (Benedict 1934), or an eidos (Bateson 1958: 220) – that corresponds in its synchronicity to the social structure identified, despite his more processual orientation, by Campbell. Both the choice of what to render in Greek and then to translate, and that of what transliteration or other representation to us, are directly tied to the dominant concern in the anthropology of the 1950s and 1960s, in both Britain and the United States despite the much-touted distinction between social and cultural anthropology, to describe entities and to avoid the methodological individualism suggested by such terms as experience. This was healthy inasmuch as it avoided begging questions about intentionality at the level of the description of everyday norms and characteristic events. But it did of course sidestep a difficult question: Meaning is the result of the agency, not of words, but of the people who speak them; and, if we cannot read their thoughts, how can we actually talk about meaning?

Inclusive Pragmatics
Here the growing influence of ordinary language philosophy on both sides of the Atlantic was crucial on both sides of the Atlantic. In Britain, Needham (1972) ridiculed the very idea of describing psychological inner states, rather than observing a negotiation of the collective representation of these states. In the United States the rise of sociolinguistics, notably the work of Bauman (1977), Gumperz and Hymes (1964), and Labov (1972), raised new possibilities, including that of rescuing language from its social isolation and bringing its demonstrable performativity to – 124 –

The Unspeakable in Pursuit of the Ineffable bear on explanations of social and cultural change. Despite now obvious criticisms, all these approaches together created new possibilities for social analysis – especially, perhaps, in those cultures (and I would argue that Greece is one such) in which talk and even linguistic form are subjects of everyday speculation. Perhaps in part because of the centrality of linguistic continuity to the ideological sustenance of their national identity, even relatively ill-educated Greeks often evince a fascination with etymology (especially of toponyms) and the play of neoclassical, demotic, and dialect idioms in the negotiation of social authority and political clout. Such linguistic reflexivity poses especially interesting questions for our discussion of translation, because it indicates, however opaquely, a degree of intentionality that makes the referential illusion that words rather than people “mean” increasingly unsustainable. One criticism of these approaches is nevertheless that they reduce everything to language, text, and performance. I have addressed some of those objections elsewhere (Herzfeld 1997a). Here, let me note that many of the so-called linguistic models (e.g. diglossia, poetics) are in my view wrongly restricted to language (and therefore wrongly considered to be linguistic models) because they reflect patterns observable in a much wider range of semiotic systems, including the entire gamut of social interaction. I should also add that if we can find evidence for semantic inventiveness in seemingly “inert” verbal texts – bits of museologically preserved folklore such as teasing songs that have been snatched from their social contexts and set down in the frozen written form beloved of traditional philologists – then, a fortiori, we should be able to identify in a whole range of activities the effects of agency even if we cannot, in functionalist fashion, divine either the motives or the purposes that may have generated these effects. In this sense, I suggest, we are not translating at all – but we must still try to translate the verbal elements that constantly recur, because these provide us with a pragmatic link between the ineffable elements of social intention and the rhetoric of referentiality that all social science discourse shares with all other forms of social action. Translation is a necessarily provisional device, as Vellacott recognized: it is the first toehold up the slope, but it is emphatically not a substitute for contextual description. It plays a part in ethnographic description – a pragmatic part – but ethnographic description cannot be reduced to it. Even the analysis of folklore texts, properly contextualized, can provide some sense of this. When I was still a student I tried to translate a set of mandinddhes (Cretan rhyming or assonant verse couplets) into English, matching rhyme scheme for rhyme scheme: “I went and found a lonely church and prayed on bended knee,! and I beheld the Mother of God as she shed tears for me” (pigha ke proskinisa s’ ena erimoklisi, k’ idha ti Mana tou Khristou ya mena na dhakrizi). I took these to a well-known poet and translator of modern Greek literature, who offered blunt advice: these were doggerel, the Greek originals were not, and perhaps I could – 125 –

Michael Herzfeld overcome the difficulty by rendering the English in dialect? Discouraged, I took my leave, and – perhaps fortunately – never tried to inflict them on anyone else. In reflecting on this incident now, I am struck by the thought that the advice was in itself an interesting commentary. Most scholars would generally, I suspect, experience less acute social discomfort with using relatively low-status dialects of foreign languages that they already know well in standard or official form than with speaking similarly low-status dialects of their own mother tongues – an act that could all too easily be construed as condescending. At the time I wrote these translations I was beginning to acquire a slight grasp of Cretan, but certainly had no ability to speak any dialect of English other than my own “received” version. Yet what we both shared was a view that these Greek verses were far from trite. Was the solution to the apparent triteness of any rhymed rendition in English through the internal exoticization of dialect? Perhaps my interlocutor was right. The alternative was to avoid rhyme altogether. Yet for me the rhyme scheme was crucial – and it became all the more so when, graduating beyond the analysis of texts for which the social context largely had to be intuited from the internal evidence of the texts themselves, I found myself working with a community of shepherding families in west-central Crete whose members had very decided ideas of their own about the production of meaning – that notion of simasia that I was to be chastised for recognizing as a theory and for “failing” to see that its social import was separate from its semantics. For these people, context was everything, because one could perceive the effects of a particular set of mandinadhes without assuming anything about either intentions or referential meanings – two aspects about which, anthropologically sensitive to a fault, they expressed pervasive skepticism. A rhyme served to give iconic palpability to the sense of “capping” that was considered the main achievement of competitive versifiers – that, and other poetic devices all consistent with a Jakobsonian vision of poetry, but with the added specificity that the “diagrams” these versifiers were producing were iconic of social relations. In particular, rhyme served as a convention for encapsulating antithesis, paralleling (for example) the way in which, at weddings, pairs of men compete in turn to toast the newly-weds and to insult each other in a genial fashion, expressing thereby the tension of a community in which solidarity is predicated on the recognition of mutual aggression and potential hostility. Now it is also true that these verses were couched in a dialect that differed in certain key respects from the national standard language. That language is so hegemonic that the Greek-born copy editor of my ethnography of the village tried to change all my Cretan texts to standard Greek on the grounds that I apparently did not know Greek well enough! So would not a translation into a dialect of English – say, Geordie – not have similarly marginalized my verse translations? Moreover, dialect speakers have their own quiet – or not so quiet – forms of revenge against the domination of standard forms. These devices included, in the Cretan village, – 126 –

The Unspeakable in Pursuit of the Ineffable expressive liberties taken with grammatical rules, many of them explained in my text (see also Herzfeld 1985b, and doubtless the major source of the copy editor’s linguistic disgust. In the end it seemed advisable to include both highly literal translations and the phonemically translated “originals,” along with as much context as possible. And in providing that context my informants were assiduous, realizing even more viscerally than anthropologists (for these texts were drawn from their own life experiences, after all) that without context there could be no meaning. (It is true that in my first book I rendered a pompous poem by a nationalistic folklorist in archaic English in order to convey something of the flavor – to use the conventional metaphor – of the katharevousa original [Herzfeld 1982: 82]. But here I was moving between two academic universes that were closely linked by historical ties and continuing interaction, so that the Greek – which was partly written in imitation of Western models in any case, syntax and all – was relatively accessible to the devices of translation.) Since the mandinadhes reproduced the forms of social relations, moreover, and since they were also used to negotiate the practical consequences of those relations, they came to play a central part in my ethnography. I was not interested in focusing only on language, as a “linguistic anthropologist” might have done. But I did want to highlight the constitutive role of language in the ongoing relationships among the villagers, and above all the capacity of villagers to enunciate, to acknowledge, and above all to use analogies between the aesthetic economy of speech and the moral economies of other domains such as raiding, sex, and politics. For the absence of much discussion of these issues in most ethnographies was as much of a distortion of Greek social worlds as perhaps my heavy emphasis on them was seen to be. It seemed worth the risk of new distortions – and what description is not skewed? – in order to refocus analysis and rectify the earlier omissions. Such a move, however, moves the problems of translation into an altogether more central place. Translation is no longer just a metaphor for ethnographic labor, to be adopted or rejected according to one’s convictions, but a necessary part of the enterprise. Even if Campbell and Friedl, in their very different ways, had been able to offer and then contextualize glosses on key terms and expressions, their principal contributions lay much more in the description of the contexts than in their actual translations. Yet I would argue that in my greater focus on language issues I have adopted essentially the same tactic as that used, especially, by Campbell, albeit on a much more massive scale. Like him I provide glosses on all Greek terms, then attempt to suggest a sense of the range of contexts in which those glosses would not outrageously violate the villagers’ own understanding of the originals. Since I also believe that the villagers contributed significantly to my theoretical equipment, not solely to the collection of data, I am able to use their exegetical commentaries – 127 –

Michael Herzfeld on the meaning of verbal texts and other social actions alike – indeed, from an Austinian perspective that very distinction looks as absurd as it apparently did to the villagers – as a means of moving my own readers from the role of passive consumers of translation to that of actively engaged interpreters. They may not be ready yet to throw the book into the fire – at least, not on these grounds – but they should already have a vision of village life that is not dependent on my providing them with a purely referential list of characteristics: this is a dowry, this is their creed, and so on. Readers are invited to see the villagers’ use, not only of terms and categories, but also of the entire range of their symbolic universe.

The Writing Effect
The question of intentionality became more prominent again for me when I recently turned my hand to writing an “ethnographic biography” (Herzfeld 1997b). Here I was concerned to use the life and writings of a novelist and occasional historian – Andreas Nenedakis – who had lived and worked in many of the sites of my own ethnographic work, in order to explore the relationship between novels and ethnographies through a comparison of our respective idioms of representation. A significant component of that project was the exploration of the role played by representations of psychological inner states in anthropological analysis and discourse. Following on the suggestive writings of Cohen (1994: 180–191) about the relevance of novels – and aware, too, of Benedict Anderson’s (1983: 32–40) musings on the interrelations among novels, language standardization, and the ostensible routinization of sentiment in nation-states – I worked from the likelihood that novelists’ willingness to portray motives and emotions provided a space for contesting and affirming currently prevailing collective representations of such states of mind. In the reactions of critics and the general public as well as in arguments about genre (fiction vs. history, etc.), one might arrive at a more pluralistic rendition of “culture” than the ordinary ethnographic mode of description usually permits. Hybrid genres encourage hybrid tactics. On the one hand, I found myself translating large segments of Nenedakis’s novels in a manner designed, I hope, to convey accurately my understanding of the original without necessarily being literal to the point of ugliness. On the other hand, in passages where I was discussing Nenedakis’s use of words and ideas, I resorted to a classic ethnographic ploy: implying, in effect, that certain terms simply did not yield to direct translation (a classic translators’ conceit), I expounded at great length on the meaning of such terms as kaïmos, which is usually glossed as “grief.” Now an ethnopsychological classification, given the ultimate irreducibility of terms denoting psychological inner states, must – at least implicitly – be a classification of overt responses and the circumstances to which they are appropriate. – 128 –

The Unspeakable in Pursuit of the Ineffable If – this is an old chestnut in Greek folklore studies – we can clearly distinguish between performance genres such as “lament/dirge” and “song” (with a subcategory of marriage song), we are making a distinction based on the appropriate idioms for expressing emotion, not on the emotions themselves. We may then perceive a degree of similarity between the formal classification of genres and that of emotions (see Herzfeld 1981). But even this does not mean that we have arrived at an understanding of how speakers of the language actually experience emotions (although, as Leavitt [1996] notes, we may have a pretty good sense of real empathy with them at moments of great crisis or joy). It means that they recognize a homology between presumed emotional states and the genres locally said to be the most appropriate for expressing them. So when Nenedakis describes an emotion, and attributes it to one of his characters, we may feel – particularly if we know the cultural background well – that he probably knows whereof he speaks. When, for example, in his novel about a struggling young art student from the provinces whose lover’s parents humiliate her because she will not bring a dowry into the family (or even a marriage, for that matter), his descriptions of her frantic, jumbled, often agonized frustration are deeply moving (Nenedakis 1976). But since this is a fictional character, the only standard of verisimilitude he must satisfy is a cultural standard of verisimilitude. (Think again of Austin’s [1971] treatment of excuses, which only had to be culturally and socially plausible but not necessarily factually persuasive.) As long as he stayed within that idiom, no one would challenge him on the grounds that “young women do not think that way” – because many of his Greek readers will have heard young women speaking that way (although perhaps too secretively to have made it into the writings of anthropologists thus far!). The student’s voice is also convincing because what it says is not the only kind of self-pity we meet in Greece. It belongs to a whole range of exasperated – and to some extent competitive – victimology (see Dubisch 1995: 212–217). Indeed, it is clear that Nenedakis has often been concerned to explore the feelings of underdogs of all categories, so that the hapless art student serves also as an allegory of the persecuted political Left and of the working class. The idiom of victimization should be rather transparent to any Greek, even a male generally unsympathetic to the social plight of ambitious young women from the countryside – especially as a hitherto dominant strain in the cultural life of the country has been the image of the generic Greek as “underdog,” and as “competitive suffering” is a well-established mode of social interaction (Diamandouros 1994; Dubisch 1995: 214). How can we show that the whining tone of self-pity is both normative and, in its deep cultural resonances, actually interesting? Because he can transcend both his own interests and those he attributes to the rather complaining, dirt-poor student, Nenedakis can project a powerful sense of the idiom that his readers are assuredly able to recognize and appreciate. – 129 –

When Andreas wants us to understand kaïmos. Ethnographers’ constant reminders that the terms they translate are always ultimately untranslatable presuppose that provisionality: where the translator of fiction may insert unobtrusive aids to understanding. For the positivist. that holds ethnographic description to an honest awareness of its own limitations. leaden phrases dramatically interrupted by painful flashes of vivid memory. the truer to life? – 130 – . must serve as constant reminders that the job is never done even as they seek to achieve that impossible closure. To the contrary. necessarily provisional. intriguingly. but foreclose none. is often risk-fraught in the extreme: the higher the risks taken. It is the act of translation. interspersed by moments of extraordinary cruelty. he usually employs both direct description and the sheer suggestiveness of his prose. What is more. in the mutually opposed terms of two supposedly irreconcilable epistemological camps. the ethnographer’s aids must obtrude. it imposes a textual closure that denies the possibility of infinite alternative interpretations. these suggest many possibilities. to conjure up that extraordinary moment when oppressed Greeks began to realize that the military dictatorship could be resisted and began to sing this song sotto voce. perhaps. I could afford to bring the speculation about inner states that is appropriate to fiction into direct juxtaposition with the ethnographic commitment to recording only observable representations. I could exploit the limitations of each mode in order to highlight the advantages of the other for any attempt to understand the complex. That is why we provide anecdotal examples. the crushing boredom of life on a prison island. like the social life we study. and it is I who must by turns invoke its salience ethnographically by describing my own reactions to hearing that song under related circumstances and then spell out the ethnosemantic dimensions of a word that can mean both consuming grief (in part through a folk etymology linking it to “burning”) and the longing excitement of the dedicated enthusiast. we freeze-frame as reified images of “culture. constantly shifting worlds that. he does so by invoking Theodorakis’s haunting song of that name. it removes the possibility of falsifiability (Popper 1968: 40). for want of a better device. For example. For translation. In this deliberately hybrid genre. It is thus in the construction of the ethnographic biography that I eventually faced the problem of translation as a rendition of intentionality – of meaning as intention. Our translations are thus also. is conveyed poetically and iconically by the dull thud of repetitive. Failure to do so is a failure. in a field where descriptions make some claims to verisimilitude.Michael Herzfeld When Nenedakis writes about emotion. a setting of a poem about the endless misery of life in an island prison camp. novelist that he is. For the deconstructionist. they are – like all translations – necessarily imperfect. if only because we cannot know exactly what meanings were intended by the original actors.” As for the translations used by ethnographers. not in spite but because of its precarious provisionality. I could do so without having to pretend that novels and ethnographies were the same thing and perform the same labor. then.

1960. References Anderson. “The Pronouns of Power and Solidarity. MA: MIT Press. L. Bauman. and with reciprocal accountability. Thomas O. 1977. Asad. Genealogies of Religion. however. Gregory.” In Style in Language. Evans-Pritchard. K. Naven: The Culture of the Iatmul People of New Guinea as Revealed through a Study of the “Na yen” Ceremonial. Brown. Beidelman. Talal.” In Philosophy and Linguistics. Bateson. 2d ed. not only to our colleagues. J. London: Routledge. Family. MA: Newbury House. J. “A Plea for Excuses. – 131 – . 1994. 1971. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. Discipline and Reasons of Power in Christianity and Islam. Cambridge. 1934. Patterns of Culture. 1993. New York: John Wiley/Halsted. we potentially – in the vastly interconnected world we now inhabit – render ourselves more accountable. Roger and Albert Gilman. The Translation of Culture: Essays Presented to E. we will also have surrendered some of that privileged incommensurability of which Asad (1993) justly complains. Explorations in Language and Meaning: Towards a Semantic Anthropology. Cohn Lyas (ed. If we embrace the risks that it entails. E. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. the presence of some form of translation in ethnography is a precondition for its existence. London: Tavistock. Ruth. 1971. 1958. Stanford: Stanford University Press. and Patronage: A Study of Institutions and Moral Values in a Greek Mountain Community. Campbell. Cohen. Sebeok (ed. Thomas A. but to those we study and who can comment knowledgeably. 1976.The Unspeakable in Pursuit of the Ineffable The question of what it means to view psychological inner states as culturally defined refocuses attention on the agency entailed in all forms of representation. Verbal Art as Performance. on our competence as revealed in the act of translation. London: Macmillan.). Richard. London: Verso. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Oxford: Clarendon. O’G.). Rowley. Crick. 253–276. 1983.). Pp. Malcolm. Benedict R. 1964. Pp. Benedict. Austin. Self Consciousness: An Alternative Anthropology of Identity. (ed. For while he is right to interrogate translation as a metaphor of ethnography. Honour. Anthony P. 79–101. If we can consequently build into the writing of ethnography this sense of the provisionality of its embedded translations.

and Bride-Theft in a Cretan Mountain Village. “The Dowry in Greece: Terminological Usage and Historical Reconstruction. 1982. 44–57.). David D. —— Anthropology through the Looking-Glass: Critical Ethnography in the Margins of Europe. Johannes. 633–660. pp. Ernestine. Gender. Friedl.” Ethnohistory 27. —— The Poetics of Manhood: Contest and identity in a Cretan Mountain Village. 1995. E. 1985b. 325–340. 1981. John J. and the Making of Modern Greece. pp. Rinehart. —— Ours Once More: Folklore. Oxford: Clarendon. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Michael. Muriel Dinien and Ernestine Friedl (eds. 1962. Paul. Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes its Object. and Politics at a Greek Island Shrine. 1983. 286–288 (= Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 268. —— Essays in Social Anthropology. – 132 – . 1964.Michael Herzfeld Diamandouros. 1994. New York: Columbia University Press. Evans-Pritchard. E. 1976. Geertz. and Andrew Lock (eds. 1940. In Regional Variation in Modern Greece and Cyprus: Toward a Perspective on the Ethnography of Greece. 1962. pp. [Remarks]. —— “Gender Pragmatics: Agency. Speech. —— Nuer Religion. Oxford: Clarendon. “Diglossia.). Gambetta. “The Serpent’s Children: Semiotics of Cultural Genesis in Arawak and Trobriand Myth. 50. pp. New York: Basic. 1981. Fabian. Clifford.” Anthropology 9.” American Ethnologist 8. Austin: University of Texas Press. 1985a. Nikiforos. Drummond. pp. 25–44. 1973. Washington. Trust: Making and Breaking Cooperative Relations. 1– 465). Ferguson.: American Anthropological Association. Indigenous Psychologies: The Anthropology of the Self.” Word. 1987. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 225–241. The Ethnography of Communication. Pp. Herzfeld.). New York: Holt.C. Jill. 1959. Estudio no. ——. and Winston. and Dell Hymes (eds. D. The Nuer: A Description of the Modes of Livelihood and Political Institutions of a Nilotic People. Ideology. Lee. —— “Performative Categories and Symbols of Passage in Rural Greece. 1980. Manhood in the Making: Cultural Concepts of Masculinity. In a Different Place: Pilgrimage. Gilmore. Dubisch. Madrid: Centro Juan Mach de Estudios Avanzados en Ciencias Sociales. 1956. Gumperz. pp. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Heelas.). 1981. New Haven: Yale University Press.” Journal of American Folklore 94. Vasilika: A Village in Modern Greece. 1988. 1990. Diego (ed. London: Faber & Faber. Charles. P. Cultural Dualism and Political Change in Postauthoritarian Greece. London: Academic Press. Oxford: Blackwell. The Translation of Cultures.

The Unspeakable in Pursuit of the Ineffable ——. Cultural Intimacy: Social Poetics in the Nation-State. New York: Routledge, 1997a. ——. Portrait of a Greek Imagination: An Ethnographic Biography of Andreas Nenedakis. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997b. Jackson, Michael. “Introduction.” In Things As They Are: New Directions in Phenomenological Anthropology. Michael Jackson (ed.). Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996, pp. 1–50. Just, Roger. Review of Herzfeld. Canberra Anthropology 10, 1987, pp. 126–128. Karakasidou, Anastasia. Fields of Wheat, Hills of Blood: Passages to Nationhood in Greek Macedonia, 1870–1990. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997. Karp, Ivan. “New Guinea Models in the African Savannah.” Africa 48, 1978, pp. 1–16. Labov, William. Language in the Inner City: Studies in the Black English Vernacular. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1972. Leach, Edmund R. “Lévi-Strauss in the Garden of Eden: An Examination of Some Recent Developments in the Analysis of Myth.” Transactions of the New York Academy of Sciences, ser. 11, vol. 23, 1961, pp. 386–396. Leavitt, John. “Meaning and Feeling in the Anthropology of Emotions.” American Ethnologist 23(5), 1996, pp. 14–539. Levy, Harry. “Property Distribution by Lot in Present Day Greece.” Transactions of the American Philological Association 87, 1956, pp. 42–46. Loizos, Peter. The Greek Gift: Politics in a Cypriot Village. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1975. Lutz, Catherine A. and Lila Abu-Lughod (eds.). Language and the Politics of Emotion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990. Needham, Rodney. Belief, Language, and Experience. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1972. Nenedakis, Andreas. To khiróghrafo tis Skholis Kalón Tekhnón. Athens, n.p. 1976. Paine, Robert. “High-Wire Culture: Comparing Two Agonistic Systems of SelfEsteem.” Man (n.s.) 24, 1989, pp. 657–672. Peristiany, J. G. (ed.). Honour and Shame: The Values of Mediterranean Society. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1965. Pinsent, L. Review of Herzfeld 1985a. Liverpool Classical Monthly, March, 1986, pp. [2–3]. Popper, Karl. The Logic of Scientjfic Discovery. 2d ed. New York: Harper and Row, 1968. Radcliffe-Brown, A. R. Structure and Function in Primitive Society. London: Cohen and West, 1952. Rosaldo, Renato. “From the Door of His tent: The Fieldworker and the Inquisitor.” In Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography Janes Clifford and George B. Marcus (eds.). Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986, pp. 77–97. – 133 –

Michael Herzfeld Rosen, Lawrence (ed.). Other Intentions: Cultural Contexts and the Attribution of Inner States. Santa Fe: School of American Research Press, 1995. Skouteri-Didaskalou, Nora. Anthropoloyiká ya to Yinekio Zitima. 2d ed. Athens: 0 Politis, 1991. Steedly, Mary. Hanging Without a Rope: Narrative Experience in Colonial and Postcolonial Karoland. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993. Vellacott, Philip. “Introduction.” The Bacchae, and Other Plays. Harmondsworth:Penguin, 1954.

– 134 –

–5 –
Translating Folk Theories of Translation
Deborah Kapchan

The event of a translation, the performance of all translations, is not that they succeed. A translation never succeeds in the pure and absolute sense of the term. Rather, a translation succeeds in promising success, in promising reconciliation. There are translations that don’t even manage to promise, but a good translation is one that enacts the performative called a promise with the result that through the translation one sees the coming shape of a possible reconciliation among languages. (Derrida 1985a: 123)

In the history of anthropology, Western theoretical perspectives have consistently been privileged over vernacular or folk theories. Although the latter are often objects of interest, they are deemed to possess little explanatory potential, usually because they assume ways of knowing and being incompatible with those of the analyst (Gellner 1970; cf. Asad 1993). What happens when this hierarchy is challenged and folk theories share the status of Western theory? What does an analysis of folk theories of translation, for example, contribute to the anthropologist’s translation of cultural poetics? In order to answer these questions, this chapter examines the folk theory of one Moroccan verbal artist, a storyteller who translates literary texts written in classical Arabic (fusHa, or CA) into oral renditions performed in Moroccan dialectal Arabic (darija, or MA). Through his metanarratives, we are able to ascertain an emergent theory of local translation between languages (CA and MA) and modalities (oral performance and written text) that reveals important junctures in cultural attitudes toward language, aesthetics and the performance of modernity.

The Storyteller in the Age of Information Translating the Written Text in Oral Performance
Storytellers carry us from one realm to another, from the mundane and material to the imaginal and ethereal. Storytellers are translators by definition insofar as the verb “translate” means to “transport” or to make to pass over.1 Traveling from one imaginary world to another, their power lies in their ability to traverse these worlds, somewhat like a shaman, bringing the listener with them. Contemporary Moroccan – 135 –

Deborah Kapchan storytellers apprentice themselves not to the masters of epic memory and meter as in preceding generations, however (cf. Reynolds 1995; Slyomovics 1987), but to books wherein these hybrid tales of diverse and oral provenance have been transcribed and codified into classical Arabic texts. Like public writers, Moroccan storytellers have functioned as brokers of literary culture, acting as bridges between the world of written tales and those of aural imagination. In the diglossic context of Moroccan verbal art this has entailed translating epics from classical Arabic back into oral colloquial Arabic for speakers of Moroccan dialect. Yet the verbal art tradition in Morocco has changed radically in the space of several generations. Whereas the old remember the epic storyteller in the marketplace as a respected and central figure in social life – someone responsible for recounting legends, stories and history to an illiterate audience – the young know these narratives, if they know them at all, through television reenactments and only rarely through books. This is due to the fact that the marketplace as a site of public performance has diminished in importance, replaced by television and other forms of media. It is also attributable to rising literacy rates which render the storyteller’s function as translator less essential. Although the storyteller can still be found in the open air marketplace (particularly in the halqa, the performance space of the market), he has now become something of an anomaly, frequented by the old and the unemployed, an object of nostalgia, appropriated as an icon of Moroccan “folklore” in local and international venues.2 In Morocco there are several languages spoken by overlapping communities: three different dialects of Berber, some French and Spanish, as well as Moroccan Arabic. The latter, a grammatically simplified form of classical Arabic with syntactical borrowings from Berber and vocabulary from both Spanish and French, is one of the dialects most impervious to comprehension by speakers of other Arabic dialects due to the isolation of North Africa, the shortening of its vowel system (vis-à-vis Middle Eastern dialects) and its eventual convergences with other languages (see Heath 1989). Its status as the mother tongue for the majority of Moroccans is unquestionable. Moroccan Arabic is a purely oral communication, a sound system without a written representation.3 It is the language of intimacy, of anger and desire. In the diglossic context of Moroccan verbal art the storyteller translates epics from classical Arabic into oral colloquial Arabic for speakers of Moroccan dialect. The storyteller’s translation of these epics makes these stories local; it is a means of appropriation, in the Ricoeurian sense (1976), whereby a written text discloses itself to another world – in this case a world of orality and affective meaning – thereby creating a third domain, a new world of in-between. The epic stories told in the marketplace in Morocco have long histories in oral tradition. A Thousand and One Nights, the epic of Ben Hillal (al-Hillaliyya) and the story of ‘Antar (al-‘Antariyya) were all originally oral texts, spoken in different languages and dialects, before being written down and codified in classical Arabic. – 136 –

Translating Folk Theories of Translation Unlike the storytellers of even a generation or two ago, however, contemporary storytellers in Morocco do not go through an apprenticeship with a master, nor do they learn their oeuvres through audition and committing formulae and form to memory. Rather, these storytellers buy books, most of them published in Beirut, read them carefully and then translate them to less-literate audiences with different degrees of fidelity. In the following story about storytelling, the raconteur’s explanation of this process reveals much about the importance of style in rendering the affective qualities of language. In the longer narrative he recounts how he learned his craft. It is not through verbal formulae, rhyme or memorization. In fact, it is the inverse of oral formulaic theory proposed by Lord (1960) wherein a poet memorizes a metric and sonic scheme and infuses it with content; here a literate man reads texts in classical Arabic in order to translate them into dialect for his less literate audience. It is a story that involves the translation (of desire, of meaning, of affect) from the written medium to the verbal one, from the high literary language to the maternal language of ‘home’ and from the visual (the text) to the auditory and performative. Speaking of his trade, Moulay ‘Omarr notes:
#1 The storytellers go out m-malin l-qisas kay-khurju between afternoon and sunset prayer f-nus ‘assr l-skhar qrabat l-maghreb. They go out when it gets cool. kay-khurju f-brudet l-hal so people will stay bash bnadem y-g‘ud . . . People have to stay khassu bnadem y-g‘ud and for this the earth needs to be cool for them u ‘la had khas l-‘ard tebred li-hum. The epic teller in Marrakech u mul s-sira lli f-marraksh is behind the Koutoubia [mosque] kayn ura l-kutubiya 5


– 137 –

Deborah Kapchan
behind the House of Baroud ura dar l-barud, on the side of the cemetery f-janb r-ruda. He, too, recounts from the book. walakin kay-‘awd ta huwa men l-ktab. He reads from the book. kay-qra men l-ktab. In classical Arabic, not in dialect. b-l-fuha mashi b-d-darija. He reads. kay-qra. He doesn’t know how to interpret. ma y-‘arf-sh ma y-‘arf-sh y-shrah. He doesn’t interpret. sh-harh ma ‘andu-sh. He reads from the book. kay-qra men l-ktab. Like now, he holds the book bhal daba kay-shad l-ktab He starts: “Antara Son of Shadded said . . .” y-bda: “qala ‘antara ibnu shaddad . . .” and this and that kada ‘ila ‘akhirih. Those people are used to his telling style dak bnadem daba mddiyn ‘la t-t‘awid dyal-u. They are taken with what he says. mddiyn ‘la dak sh-shi lli tay-gul. Like those here now [in this town] – bahal hadi daba lli hnaya – 20 15 10

– 138 –

. You just find old people with him now. daba s-sira ghadiya . . because if you add something li’anna huwa daba ila dakhelt-i shi haja there are people sitting there kaynin n-nas lli ga‘din m‘a-k they’ve heard it before. . daba kat-lqay ‘and-u huwa ghir sh-shiyab. . Those old people are taken with his style. . Because they’ve taken to his style. “stop sir. li-’anna dau ‘la t‘awid-u. Moulay Ahmed’s audience doesn’t come to me. Now with epics I’m going to . haduk m‘a-h qdam. he tells them just from the book. “where the hell did you get that from?” “wayli mnin jibt-i hada?” 35 30 25 – 139 – . la shab mulay hmid ma kay-jiu-sh ‘and-i ana.Translating Folk Theories of Translation could the audience of Moulay Ahmed come to me? wesh y-qadru shab mulay hmid y-jiu l-‘and-i l-hnaya? No. ghadi y-gulu l-ak “wa hda flan. they’re going to tell you. mulay h kay-‘awed dak t‘awid dyal-u. ila jit-i t-gul li-hum ye‘ni wahed l-haja lli kada. . ddau duk sh-shiyab ‘la t-‘awid-u. ila jit-i t . . In classical Arabic. b-l-fusha ta huwa kay-‘awed ghir men l-ktab. I can’t add anything that’s not . faytin sam‘in u faytin kada. Moulay Ahmed tells in his style. ma n-qdar-sh n-dakhel fi-ha shi haja lli . . They have been with him for a long time. . . If you start saying something [different].

just a little. just like food with its salt.. th-thakira l-qdima. You can’t leave what’s written in the book l-ktab ma t-qdar-sh t-khruj ‘l-ih unless you add something funny llah-huma ‘ila zedt-i shi haja dyal d-dhak and simple. . bhal ‘ila t-t‘am m‘a l-malh. ma t-qawwi. ye‘ni wahed sh-shwiya dyal l-mzah. u wahed sh-shwiyya kada and you keep talking.. u bast.” That is.Deborah Kapchan Now they don’t remember the whole epic daba huma ma ‘aqlu-sh ‘la s-sira kamla but when you start talking walakin melli kat-bda nta kat-hdar you start making their memories come alive kat-bda thya li-hum dik th-thakira old memories. u kat-zid tani f-l-hadra. 50 45 40 – 140 – . . . “perfume it with a little laughter” tay-gul l-ak “wa ‘allil-hu bi-shay’in mina l-mazhi” [CA] “If you give it humor “fa ‘itha ‘a‘tayta-hu l-mizha Then give it just as much as you put salt in food. They say.” “fa ‘a‘tihi qadra ma tu‘t-i t-ta‘ama mina l-malh. just a little laughter. ma t. don’t . . don’t [laugh] a lot..

who base their stories on the book but who translate and perform the words in dialect. between imitation and mimesis. the code against which others are marked. t-kallem m‘a l-’insan bhal ‘ila kat-t-kallem m‘ah ‘adi. Moulay ‘Omarr talks about two kinds of storyteller – those in Marrakech who read from the book in classical Arabic. as well as an intellective process. despite their being made audible. Here. literally. Now. his colleague doesn’t “have” (or possess) the art of interpretation. You talk with people as if you’re talking with [them] ordinarily. but it is not invested with the more personal and performative elements of the improvisation that. Moulay ‘Omarr’s distinction recalls the Greek meaning of interpretation. sh-harh ma ‘andu-sh. it is recounting. ‘ila qallat-ti l-ih.4 The “style” that Moulay ‘Omarr refers to is the – 141 – . though closest to the mother tongue.” the proper name. which included a performative. Because you have to translate what is there li-’annahu khass-ek t-tarjem dak sh-shi lli kayn. u trud-u dariji. relating. You translate it in darija kat-ttarjm-u b-d-darija and transform it into dialect. here denied to the simple “reading” of texts. take place in the mother tongue of Moroccan Arabic. ‘ila katart-i l-ih wahla. me. he goes on to say. representation. Of his rival storyteller in the marketplace who reads the classical Arabic word for word he says. if I talk epics with people up there [in the marketplace] daba ana bnadem ‘ila kan t-kallem m‘a-hum tema l-fuq f-s-sira it’s like people see it right next to them. and those. bhal ‘ila kay-shuf-u f-bnadem f-l-fas qudam-hum 60 55 In the narrative above. like himself. it is “the language. Moulay ‘Omarr makes the distinction between representation and performance. it’s tasteless.Translating Folk Theories of Translation If you add too much. if you don’t put enough. according to Moulay ‘Omarr. y-ji basel. This language. he does not consider it interpretation. is referred to as allugha in the dialect. Classical Arabic. is not interpretable – the storyteller simply reads it. although reading the text in classical Arabic involves the translation of the written word to spoken utterance. you’re stuck.

” kay tkhtaf b-had sh-shi hada.” he says. They say. but profitable. but simpy a higher register. He thus has a much larger audience than his colleague Moulay Ahmed. a few years of Qur’anic education was the means to acquiring literacy in Moroccan society. related to memory and fidelity. For a man who trades in words. For Moulay ‘Omarr. is comprised of a younger generation : bezzaf dyal d-drari. the tastiness of his product is of great import. Moulay ‘Omarr’s choice of when he will cite classical Arabic and when he will “translate” into Moroccan dialect are motivated. Where Moulay Ahmed reads the classical text. see Eickelman 1992. He is able to read the classical Arabic.Deborah Kapchan Arabic word. but performing the taste of his own translated words. as it corresponds to old memories). so the revivifying of their recollections must run true to past course. the affect that resides in the mother tongue is not only tasty. As the language of the Qur’an. embellishing and appropriating the plot. “perfume it with a little laughter” tay-gul l-ak “wa ‘allil-hu bi-shay’in mina l-mazhi” [CA] Here Moulay ‘Omarr makes plain the intimacy of the two forms of Arabic (see Herzfeld 1997. his performative style – in Moroccan Arabic – is more vivid. it is not “seasoned”. They inhabit the narrative event fully because of his performance style. What’s more. and Chapter 4 of this volume). rather. Moulay ‘Omarr leaves the classical text to enter an imaginative world. Wagner 1993). a habitual way of doing things. Just as the physical comfort of the audience aids in their attention (“the ground must be cool for them”). an oral rendering. Whereas Moulay ‘Omarr characterizes the audience for classical Arabic as “old” (which is why they are taken with this style. penetrating the depths of the body. Furthermore. he says that people are “grabbed by it [his story]. a depth – for food is ingested. giving pleasure and nourishment as it does so. The translation of one sense into another bespeaks an enfoldment. a customary repetition. Although the classical Arabic telling qualifies as a style among others. t‘awid. Moulay ‘Omarr’s decision to interpret and perform the text in the mother tongue intead of rendering it word for word is a conscious choice. “When you start talking. he says. but subtly maligns classical Arabic style (and his competitor in the marketplace) by himself citing a proverb in classical Arabic (lines 46–48). the memories that live in the body must be respected and reactivated. it is comprehensible to most Moroccans with even a minimum of religious education in Qur’anic schools (before the French protectorate. Synaesthesia – here the blending of words and taste – becomes the criterion for a good interpretation. his audience. literally. translation is of several orders – not simply conveying the literal meaning. a lot of kids.5 classical Arabic is not a foreign language. Moulay ‘Omarr qualifies it as “tasteless” (basel). “you start making their – 142 – . however.

that is. Kapchan 1996). reframed with quotation marks. In parodying the style of his colleague. however.” and this and that kada ‘ila ‘akhirih. citing the reported speech of his colleague: He [Moulay Ahmed] starts: “Antara Son of Shadded said . Moulay ‘Omarr uses the word mddiyn. Briggs and Bauman 1992. there are people who won’t undertand. “Because if you don’t tell it in dialect (darija). outside the frame of the quote in classical Arabic Moulay ‘Omarr continues to use what in this region would be considered a classicalized Arabic: kada ‘ila ‘akhirih.” In other words. The double-embedding of citation brings Moulay ‘Omarr’s attitude toward classical Arabic to the fore. Given thus taste and smell. Moulay ‘Omarr is specifically referring to its oral rendition. he starts working and he begins.” y-bda: “qala ‘antara ibnu shaddad . and “perfumed” with laughter.Translating Folk Theories of Translation memories come alive. they have been transported by the translation. “taken with. the spoken text ceases being a mere repetition and is transformed into a successful translation. The quotation marks that he places around his colleague’s words transform the act of mere repetition into one of performance and interpretation. By mimicking the classical Arabic style. He thus demonstrates his own competence in the two registers of Arabic and well as their interpermeability. On the other hand. . classical style without laughter and improvisation is tasteless. There aren’t many who will understand. a written more than a spoken language. Although talking about classical Arabic. he challenges its authority (it doesn’t make people laugh). old memories. Here. Moulay ‘Omarr performs his own theory – the high seriousness of classical Arabic must be brought down. Take Moulay Ahmed now. It is the performative aspect of Moroccan Arabic that the audience is taken with. . “used to”) to express the relation between audience and style – the audience is “taken with” the style. his critique of classical style is made by appropriating the style and register itself. and TAN! He starts talking classical Arabic. Moulay ‘Omarr clearly recognizes the necessity of faithfulness to the text (“You can’t leave what’s written in the book”). . Moulay ‘Omarr verges on hyperbole. “and this and that. . however. Citation practices are common in classical Arabic. where genealogical delineations of reported speech – who said what to whom – are a common rhetorical strategy used to create textual authority by invoking other texts (cf. for extant memories are recalled and – 143 – .” (rather than the more common m‘uluf.” Time depth is here expressed. And Moulay ‘Omarr exemplifies this.” Despite his critique. He is imitating and thereby mocking the seriousness of his colleague who reads in classical Arabic.

10 5 1 – 144 – . Moulay ‘Omarr answers. #2 There’s no one who can remember 82 books. ma kayn-sh l’insan y-qdar y‘aqal ‘la tnin u tmanin ktab. Like now. Nonetheless. you go here walakin min ba‘d twelli t-amshi huk you go there u t-mshi huk and you leave the epic here u t-khalli s-sira hna and you go over there u t-amshi l-had j-jih and turn it this way and only then u dawer-ha l-had j-jih u ‘ada come back to those first words. but after that. on being asked whether he memorized all the epics that he recounts. the first [book] I can recall completely.Deborah Kapchan revivified in their evocation. It’s among the impossible. min l-mustahil Even if he has an electronic mind he’s not going to remember 82 books. t-ji tani l-dak l-klam l-uwal. wakha y-kun ‘and-u dmagh iliktrunik ma ghadi-sh y-‘aqal ‘la tnin u tmanin ktab. l-uwal n-qdar n-‘awd-u kamal. bhal daba. Now take my case daba ana had qadiya lli ‘and-i When I read the book for the first time melli kan-kun kan-qra f-l-ktab l-marra l-uwla I begin to read and I mark the important parts – kan-bda n-qra u kan-ershum l-muhim – the important parts that need to be told of the epic l-muhim lli khasu y-t‘awed f-s-sira.

you get to know it as the Tower of Shitban.” kat-sharet ‘l “qustantiniya. to the second language. He reads – already an act of translation. From the Tower of Shitban. kat-‘alem ‘li-ha. kan-bda n-‘allem ghir dak sh-shi lli huwa muhim. Like this tower. Lines that advance the literary plot are marked for their referential meaning (denken) – the kind that. When you get to the part about the palace. they went and got another one – men qal‘at sh-shitban zadu talbin l-qal‘a dyalt kada – the Tower of Constantine. to designate (line 13).” 25 20 Moulay ‘Omarr marks the surface structure. it’s called the Tower of Shitban. to the outer form. kat-bqa t-‘raf-ha ‘la ‘anna-ha qal‘at sh-shitban. so to speak. The poetry (dichten).Translating Folk Theories of Translation that [part] which takes the epic straight ahead. like philosophy. by the places where he needs to come out of his affective depths and be attentive to the text. mahma kat-usel l-wahed l-qsar kan-wasf-u RASS-i. and then he marks. and to naming as a self-conscious enactment. hadak sh-shi ma-‘and-na ma-n-diru b-ih. lends itself to translation because the text as text is effaced. to mark. placing a cross. qal‘at qustantiniya. and ‘allem [root: ‘la ma]. the epidermis. to physically inscribe. I’LL describe it myself. bhal had l-qal‘a ‘asmit-ha qal‘at sh-shitban. [Concerning] a description of a palace or something bhal dak sh-shi dyal l-wasf dyal had ksar u kada u kada we have no use for that stuff. He uses two words to describe this: ershim [root: ra-sha-ma]. – 145 – . you mark it. in the form of descriptions. to mark with a cross (line 19). an x. You mark “Constantine. 15 I just mark that which is important. dak l-muhim kay-ddi s-sira nishan.

In Moulay ‘Omarr’s metanarrative it is not only the proper name. a place to be “in. Although modernization in the form of television viewing has diminished his audience and thus radically affected his profession. “synonymous with [the] confusion”7 that so often characterizes relations of intimacy. are places of liberty. impermeable to translation. the other playful. “the Language” – that becomes marked. it becomes marked in the oral rendition – his responsibility. he – 146 – . to give them an affective home. expressive of another world. In this process of “intersemiotic translation. Indeed he began his career going to the cinema at night to watch Indian films. into poetry and gesture.’ or translation between two different sign systems (Jakobson 1960). Placenames are also proper names.Deborah Kapchan remains unmarked. however. wherein memory is conferred to computers. Moulay ‘Omarr seems not to be intimidated by the change in paradigm. the storyteller takes responsibility for it himself. grounding the interlocutor firmly in time and space. Here he moves into his own interpretations. ironic. wakha y-kun ‘and-u dmagh iliktrunik ma ghadi-sh y-‘aqal ‘la tnin u tmanin ktab. transcendent. time-bound and “salty. in the mother tongue. as such. swinging between surface and depth. but classical Arabic – al-lugha. functions to “emplace” the audience. for in challenging the boundaries between languages. and are called to life again from the depths of experience for strategic and context-dependent reasons.6 The places that Moulay ‘Omarr marks are proper names. in Derrida’s formulation. authored and performed by the storyteller himself. substituting Moroccan names and places. between sign systems and genres of affect (as Moulay ‘Omarr does above) the translator moves in a reversible world. names of places. and. Descriptions. they become the pillars of the story. along with its temperate climate. This location. landmarks upon which he constructs his performance. on the side of the cemetery”). is often associated with the transcendent quality of “time immemorial. that is.” this metanarrative about the epic expresses a certain anxiety about the telectronic age. authoritative.” If the epic. official. behind the House of Baroud.” These two repertoires find recognition in most all male Moroccans old enough to have spent their youth among storytellers in the marketplace. like the myth. citational. the next day recounting the stories he saw there. Note that the word for “electronic” is a direct borrowing from the French électronique: Even if he has an electronic mind he’s not going to remember 82 books.8 These different languages represent two different emotional worlds that together inhabit the narrative event that Moulay ‘Omarr and other verbal artists in the Moroccan public domain narrate for their audiences: one. The limits of translatability. So whereas it remains unmarked in the written text. It is not gratuitous that Moulay ‘Omarr makes such careful note of where the storytellers in Marrakech hold forth (“behind the Koutoubia [mosque].

Duplication is not possible. as that the genres that the storyteller lives and narrates are changing. 4) the power of a – 147 – . There was no exact symmetry between them. and not its product. he shares much in common with Moroccan essayist and novelist Khatibi whose oeuvre theorizes and poeticizes the predicament of the bilingual (see Amour Bi-lingue. he compares them to the evening news – “If you do that ‘news short’.Translating Folk Theories of Translation implicitly employed the same processes of translation that he employs today. people gather and sit still and stay. the proper names. From Moulay ‘Omarr’s metanarrative we learn the following about his implicit theory of translation: 1) in the diglossic context of Morocco.” Conclusion The verbal artist discussed in this chapter is engaged in translation – from one language to another. He does not celebrate its failures. he models his performances on those of the mass media – news shorts. When speaking of his performances in the marketplace today. along with their affective “sense. La Blessure du Nom Propre). the permutation of an untranslatable love. to the contrary. all the while respecting its storyline. while innovation responds to the marketplace. To the contrary. rather there was a kind of inversion. no encounter both vertical and parallel. he says (1990: 20).” Moulay ‘Omarr’s performances are self-consciously episodic and visual – you see the stories next to you. from one modality (written/oral) to another (oral/written). only instead of reading classical texts. Khatibi is inhabited by the desire to translate the limits of the untranslatable. Maghreb Pluriel. There is no question here of fidelity to the text in terms of literal translation. he translated visual plots. that had to be translated without respite. events. Speaking of the second language as a lover. he imagines its possibility and embodies his vision. or the foreign lover as language. which he takes from the untranslatable elements of the story – namely. The storyteller has no anxiety about changing tradition. In this. For him the promise of the reconciliation of languages – the hope and promise that translation is realizable – is an important one. 3) fidelity leads to boredom. to delineate them and make them recognizable. the storyteller is not preoccupied with fidelity. rendering it in dialect and making it local. places. It is the process of translation that holds promise. the mother tongue of Moroccan Arabic is preferred as the more performative and affectively powerful medium of expression. 2) although the promise of translation is operative. he takes great license with the form of the narrative. to the contrary. Perhaps it is not so much that “the storyteller in his living immediacy is by no means a present force” in contemporary society as Benjamin asserted (1969: 83).

As Jean Pépin has pointed out (‘L’Herméneutique ancienne. to a kernal of hidden meaning within a shell. Once a pupil attends kindergarten he or she begins learning the literary language – classical Arabic – the language of the Qur’an. In fourth grade the pupil begins learning French. the mother tongue is the language of poetic elaboration and description. musicians. a translation is not purely textual. a series of performances in Paris celebrated Moroccan culture. aurally. however. representation and performance. faire passer in French. In the folk theory of Moulay ‘Omarr.Deborah Kapchan performance come from its performative depth – that is. orality and literacy. it is a language that allows him to reach a larger and younger audience. Further. and storytellers. so to speak. 4. These senses blend together in the body of the performance as they do in the body of the performer. “Everyone knows that the term ‘hermeneutic’ has had different connotations throughout its long history. 3. the imperialist one. 2. Classical Arabic texts are part of this performance – the script. its ability to move all the senses and between all the senses (synaestheia). are all dyads that don’t match. the most recent colonialist language. and in sixth grade English. that he nonetheless always holds in his hands. olfactorily and gustatorily. by way of exegesis. It represents a deeper engagement with his body and a more superficial engagement with the body of the text. but that are locked in a relation of permeable and often painful intimacy. For him. low and high registers of Arabic. It is an active and prophetic productivity which is not connoted by the – 148 – . the “Year of Morocco” in France. “the permutation of an untranslatable love. Among these events was a reenactment of performances that take place regularly in Jma‘ al-Fna square in Marrakech. During 1999. one whose memories are not as conditioned by past literary renderings of epic stories. In analysing Moulay ‘Omarr’s metanarrative we learn that his criteria for a successful translation are intimately related to synaesthesia. a successful translation makes the images come alive – visually. in Greek thought the term hermeneia signified not so much the return. the natural instrument of the soul. but it must be performative. Notes 1. including herbalists hawking their goods. that [must be] translated without respite” – the promise of translation. For the storyteller Moulay ‘Omarr. to the ability of the translator to make words both tasty and odiferous.’ Poétique 23). but more the act of extroversion by the voice. and of all “official” and written texts.

There is also. where translation becomes an integral part of the reading experience. 1985: 136. at the ‘threshold of the untranslatable. They are parallels that intersect. Yet. they cut out a notch. 6. They do not wound each other. as Khatibi has suggested.’ Heidegger of course associates them. this literary production is in and of itself plurilingual and in many instances places us. up to a certain point. in many ways these postcolonial plurilingual texts in their own right resist and ultimately exclude the monolingual demand of their readers to be like themselves: ‘in between. it can send the address off course. therefore.” Eugene Vance quoted in Derrida. the poetic performance of rhapsodes was a ‘hermeneutic’ performance.’” Commenting on Heidegger’s remark that to make poetry is to think (dichten ist denken) Derrida remarks (1985a: 130): “On the subject of ‘Dichten–Denken. more than one language. as parallel paths.” (Derrida 1985a: 107–08) A similar reversibility (this time between French and Arabic) is noted by Moroccan writer Khatibi. By cutting across each other. and thus I cannot be assured that an appeal or an address is addressed to whom it is addressed. In effect. each leaves its mark in the other even though they are absolutely other. 8. He understood this better thanks to a brief sense of disorientation he had experienced one day at Orly. more than one world experience. within the confines of the same text. one beside the other. They are really other and can never be confused or translated one into the other. To the extent which it can immediately become common and drift off course towards a system of relations where it functions as a common name or mark. They run parallel one beside the other. Such interdependency between languages characterizes the Moroccan novel as well. Samia Mehrez remarks (1992: 122) that “By drawing on more than one culture. while ‘Dichten–Denken’ go together and form a pair. synonymous with confusion.” “The proper name is a mark: something like confusion can occur at any time because the proper name bears confusion within itself. they are parallels that never meet. The most secret proper name is. postcolonial anglophone and francophone literature very often defies our notions of an ‘original’ work and its translation. waiting for a boarding call. For the Greeks. he found – 149 – 5. The address is always delivered over to a kind of chance. in his work Love in Two Languages: “Permanent permutation. as you have said. Hence. a trend in Heidegger emphasizing the irreducibility of ‘Dichten–Denken’ and thus their nonpermutability. as paradoxical as that may seem. 7. ‘dichten’ and ‘denken’ nevertheless have a relation to each other which is such that at places they cut across each other. they leave a mark. . And this language of the cut or break is marked in the text of Heidegger’s I’m thinking of: Unterwegs zur Sprache [The Way to Language].’ at once capable of reading and translating. but each cuts across the other. parallel.Translating Folk Theories of Translation Latin term interpretatio. But there are also texts where he says very precisely that.

“The Task of the Translator: An Introduction to the Translation of Baudelaire’s Tableaux parisiens. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Cambridge. pp. —— The Ear of the Other: Otobiography. Graham. Cultural Intimacy: Social Poetics in the Nation-State. 11–74. Briggs. Hannah Arendt (ed. Jacques. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.” In Style in Language. Translation.” References Asad. 1960. Heath. Peggy Kamuf. Dale. English edn Christie V. Dell.” In Rationality. 1960. Joseph (ed.The Hague: Mouton.Deborah Kapchan himself unable to read the word South. Turning it around. Roman. Thomas Sebeok (ed. he realized he had read it from right to left. Lord. Jakobson. New York: Schocken. Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis Press. R. 1992. Benjamin. 1985b. Michael. L.” Folklore: Performance and Communication. The Singer of Tales. Hymes. B. Albert Bates. trans. Cambridge. Herzfeld. Charles. Gender on the Market: Moroccan Women and the Revoicing of Tradition. 1969. as if it were written in Arabic characters – his first written form. 1983. “Concepts and Society. pp. Trans. 131–172. 69–82. Concluding Statement: “Linguistics and Poetics. 643– 655.).) Eickelman. Wilson (ed.).” American Ethnologist 19(4). Khatibi. seen backward. Genealogies of Religion: Discipline and Reasons of Power in Christianity and Islam. London: Kegan Paul. 1996. pp. Richard Howard.). 1975. Walter. Harry Zohn.) Ithaca: Cornell University Press. and Social Power. Intertextuality. Ernest. “Des Tours de Babel. Jeffrey.). From Code-Switching to Borrowing: Foreign and Diglossic Mixing in Moroccan Arabic.” In Difference in Translation. MA: Harvard University Press. 1970. 1993. “Genre. 1985a. 1992. Abdelkebir. 1989. trans. (The section of this book entitled “Otobiographies: The Teaching of Nietzsche and the Politics of the Proper Name” is translated by Avital Ronell. He could place the word only by going by way of his mother tongue. pp. through a window. Derrida. Baltimore and London: John Hopkins University Press. —— Amour Bilingue. Deborah. Paris: Fata Morgana. Kapchan. McDonald (ed. New York: Routledge. Talal. Transference. – 150 – . MA: MIT Press. “Mass Higher Education and the Religious Imagination in Contemporary Arab Societies. 1997.” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 2(2). Gellner.” In Illuminations. and Richard Bauman. “Breakthrough into Performance. Love in Two Languages. 1990. New York: Schocken.

Samia. 1992. Literacy. “Translation and the Postcolonial Experience: The Francophone North African Text”. The Merchant of Art: An Egyptian Hilali Oral Epic Poet in Performance. 1987. Ricoeur. Ideology. Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press. Reynolds. Daniel A.Translating Folk Theories of Translation Mehrez. Culture and Development: Becoming Literate in Morocco. 1993. Paul.). In Rethinking Translation: Discourse. 1995. Subjectivity. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Wagner. Dwight Fletcher. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. 120–138. Slyomovics. Interpretation Theory : Discourse and the Surplus of Meaning. Lawrence Venuti (ed. Berkeley: University of California Press. Heroic Poets. New York and London: Routledge. – 151 – . 1976. Poetic Heroes: The Ethnography of Performance in an Arabic Oral Epic Tradition. Susan. pp.


He seems to find it a perfectly ordinary matter to encounter Indonesian as doubly foreign. Shared with Malaysia. and one assumes unself-consciously. he already comes to it as a second language. Modern Language. an interviewer for the Indonesian news weekly Tempo asked Amien Rais. similar to Swahili or Filipino. not People’s Mandate Party. – 153 – . incorporated a so-called “loan-word. much less a closely guarded cultural property.1 In this respect it is. as it were. if not always unproblematic.–6– Second Language. translation mine). the language is rarely portrayed as the bearer of primordial identities. National Language. Readers of Indonesian print media will be familiar with this pattern of glossing backwards that. English words italicized in the original. and Brunei. Because the word people in English has leftist connotations” (Amien 1998.” nasional. a major figure in national Islamic politics and founder of the National Mandate Party (Partai Amanat Nasional). What does a national language like Indonesian offer. Of course Amien Rais was making a shrewd political calculation in this bid for international support. but what is striking is how unapologetically he expresses the decision with reference to translation. In addition. Singapore. he has already. he readily imagines it from the perspective of English. He replied “We chose Partai Amanat Nasional because it would be better translated into English as National Mandate Party. and Post-Colonial Voice: On Indonesian Webb Keane The Otherness of One’s Own Best Language In August 1998. Having been a childhood speaker of Javanese. views the language from the position of a hypothetical English speaker – or of an Indonesian unsure of his or her words. for whom its “modern” and relatively cosmopolitan character – its inherent translatability – are unquestionable. why he had altered the name of the party from the originally proposed Partai Amanat Bangsa. perhaps. Nor has any of this seemed to trouble either its promoters or most ordinary speakers. that so easily invites its speakers to take a view from afar? Certainly not the possibly untranslatable values of local particularity and rich aesthetic heritage. Moreover. into the Indonesian. as if in anticipation of this future translation.

Unlike that first language. this potential loss often seems to provoke remarkably little mourning: ethnic-language politics or revitalization movements have been surprisingly rare in the archipelago. In this respect. One is biographical: for most of its speakers Indonesian was acquired as a second language in marked contrast to languages denoted as “local” (bahasa daerah. something one learns by way of explicit rules. but ideologically distinct from the forms of linguistic difference characteristic. in some ways. the dominant language ideologies of Indonesian run counter to the – 154 – . Indonesian is encountered as relatively objectified. the private. belongs to no one in particular. or the subjective. see Keane 1997a). however. the local.” and for mediating their reflexivity. it would seem to be readily learnable and translatable – open to anyone. or at least its relegation to the past. Indonesian is a language whose ideological value has from its early days derived in part from being portrayed to its speakers as a markedly second and subsequent language.Webb Keane The self-conscious modernity and even cosmopolitan claims of Indonesian as a national standard have been inseparable from a certain projection of “otherness.” This otherness is related to. plantations. If the national language does not inspire love in all who claim it. it is commonly spoken of as needing to be “developed.” “modernized.” in some sense. Moreover. having to do with general paradoxes of national subjecthood. In contrast to the first language children learn at home. or commonplace plurilingualism. say. it draws on semiotic features immanent in language per se. If it can seem. honorific registers. which underlie its potential for producing both intersubjectivity and objectification. It does so. in some sense. for all the peculiarities of Indonesian colonial and postcolonial history. for being disembedded from and reinserted into particular contexts. and even to such second languages as are picked up. the perceived “otherness” of Indonesian has at least two aspects. for providing speakers with a range of distinctive social “voices. for example. In being portrayed as a language that. and the specific violence and tedium of an authoritarian state. 1997) and Joseph Errington (1998) have pointed out. scriptural and high literary languages. Like them. of lingua francas. in order to underwrite Indonesian’s apparent potential as a superordinate and cosmopolitan language of purportedly “antifeudal. The second is cognitive. It is the object of purposeful manipulation in a way one’s mother tongue is not. taboo vocabularies. in playgrounds. the rise of the national language and its attendant ideologies also reflect pervasive problems in the semiotic mediation of translocal identities and large-scale publics – in the unstable articulation of ideologies with semiotic practices. This promise is inseparable for the imaginability of the nation as a project of modernity – and it is this promise to which Amien Rais seems to be responding. or marketplaces. this is largely for other reasons. decentered social and political identities.” and made into a cosmopolitan literary vehicle. As scholars such as James Siegel (1986. to demand the sacrifice of one’s first language.

villages. which makes it peculiarly suitable as the language of the nation as a project of modernity. It should therefore be a suitable medium for the projection and fostering of a certain kind of persona. And it should allow its speakers to take a recognizable place in the cosmopolitan plane of other languages understood to be modern in character and global in scope. The language that carries the greatest political and cultural weight may involve a willful sort of self-displacement. And. unhampered by untranslatable opacities or untransferable indexes of context. in principle.” in favor of one deemed to transcend the local in both space and historical time. a local language. But this is more than a matter of introducing new words and ideas. In terms of linguistic ideology (Kroskrity 2000). and what (under this new universalism) came to be thought of as “feudal” (feodal) traditions. citizen – into which anyone. when those nationalists imagined liberation. no doubt. retrospectively construed as their “mother tongue. Indeed. The rise of Indonesian has been associated with a rather cheerful view of the claim that nationalist aspirations are founded on universal categories. as speakers in important respects understand themselves as giving up. Indonesian makes two claims to universality that reflect those of modernist nationalisms more broadly. Indeed. existing in unstable and even contradictory relations with one another. Thus it would seem to be this very otherness. might enter. this process. and the sense of openness and even historical agency it evokes. striker. is widespread as linguistic standardization is recasting normal plurilingualism into a hierarchy of localities encompassed within larger linguistic spheres that explicitly aspire to hegemony (Silverstein 1998: 410). They require both practical embodiment in concrete semiotic forms. or at least subordinating. from colonialism to be sure. one that speaks in public and is potentially identified with the nation. they envisioned a language purposefully stripped of social indexes and cultural particularities.On Indonesian Herderian tradition that seeks in language the deep spiritual or cultural roots of an organic people that preexists the nation. however. since it is in principle available to anyone. the Indonesian language seemed for many early nationalists to lend itself to openness to ideas. signified by European words for categories – politician. but also from kinship. But as the failure of Indonesian (so far) entirely to fulfill these visions suggests. and is supposed to be transparent to other languages. this involves other paradoxes. Indonesian may turn out to be only an extreme instance of a common circumstance in the semiotics and linguistics of nations and their potential publics. and the conceptual specificity by which those forms are interpreted within political contexts – the forms and their interpretations. in one form or another. According to Benedict Anderson (1996). It involves self-conscious efforts to take advantage of language’s general pragmatic capacities for abstraction and decontextualization in order to make possible new and expansive modes of circulation. such projects do not come into being – or fail – as thought-worlds or representations alone. – 155 – .

in our postlapsarian world. portrays the story of Babel as the loss of a world in which Adam’s act of naming brings things into being. by extension.) These are questions of language ideology. and their implications for the identification of speakers with “their” language – and their potential alienation from it.Webb Keane Yet we should not assume we know in advance just what speakers see themselves as giving up. Babel is an account of social difference that focuses on the material forms of lexical signifiers. in part. (Indeed. and inevitably involves the meta-linguistic and. semiotic features. among which the sheer pervasiveness of linguistic habitus gives it a privileged role. For such ideas to be inhabitable requires concrete forms of semiotic mediation. makes them the special focus of attention. Ideologies of national and postcolonial languages. And these come to the fore especially to the extent that a heightened sense of agency. reference and denotation on the one hand. once upon a time to name was already to act. on the other. for instance in the guise of instrumentalist policies of language reform. or at most merely a certain. draw on the historically specific interpretations and the exploitation of universal. subsequently. but not all possible claims about language are equally plausible. an account of the historical particularities of languages and the power relations they involve cannot overlook the endemic problems posed by the semiotics of language. then there exists a rupture between what exists in the world and the – 156 – . It is tied to ubiquitous concepts of modernity that orient both high-level policies and everyday activities. its “value” may well be produced only in retrospect [Keane 1997b]. the story would go. George Steiner (1975: 58). But this habitus is never sufficient unto itself. Thus. Of particular relevance here are popular ideas about historical rupture with “tradition” and its implications for the capacities of humans to be the agents of their own transformation (Berman 1998. meta-cultural (Urban 2001) interpretations offered by linguistic ideologies. but underdeterminant. As the example of Indonesian suggests. In his classic discussion. The history of Indonesian suggests that the perceived value of that “mother tongue” does not necessarily lie in its ties to local group identity. One is a rupture between two linguistic functions. Babel as the Semiotic Condition National languages have usually been posed. highly attenuated kind of act. with all the active and interactive features of speech. Taylor 1989). Indonesian has been a central part of a selfconsciously “modern” project of national self-creation. naming has become distinct from action proper. The other separation follows on the first: if naming is only a linguistic act (and if denoting is the only linguistic act). and performativity. We may see this as implying two kinds of separations. the (mere) saying of words. as solutions to the problem of divisiveness figured by the Tower of Babel.

and between signifier and signified).On Indonesian names for what exists. Not everyone at every historical moment. If sense should be dominant. Thus. Only. Since prayer books emphasize the iterability of texts across contexts. What Humboldt shared with Protestantism is a devaluing of the materiality of the word relative to the human spirit and the autonomy of the human subject. worshipers took their words not from the heart but from external sources. That the mediation of language itself must necessarily involve some sort of alienation or violence is a common theme in some religious contexts. has taken the existence of the sound/sense distinction to be troubling. who portrayed language as external to humans and thus doing violence to them. Saussure’s (1986 [1915]) doctrine of the arbitrariness of the signifier/signified relation. In less religious terms. The question of unity among the speakers of now disparate languages merely compounds the quandaries of identity of speakers’ relationships to their “own” words that are already found in language’s basic characteristics. this view sees language as standing between us and the things themselves. Playing up the postAdamic separation of words from the world. orthodox Muslims respond to the same semiotic problem by asserting that the Qur’an can exist only in the original divine Arabic words. reformers have tended to see the distinction between sound and sense in hierarchical and often historicizing terms. they seem to privilege material form over immaterial content and thus. Conversely.” – 157 – . for instance. the hierarchical and anxious aspect of this critique was expressed early on by Wilhelm von Humboldt (Steiner 1975: 82). the semiotic condition of possibility for linguistic diversity. the story implicates the loss of socio-linguistic unity with the loss of the full power of words. This is the foundation for the arbitrariness of the sign. By using prayer books. they might find translation’s underlying enabling condition. sound perpetually threatens to disrupt it. in this view. notably in times of reformism. according to this narrative. These worries about the form–sense distinction produce a variety of alternative scenarios. Protestantism saw Catholic uses of language as insincere and even idolatrous – marks of their supposedly archaic character (Keane 1997b). tempt the worshiper to fetishize ritual rather than the true spirit of faith. for instance. a view whose implications persist in one of the dominant linguistic postulates of the early twentieth century. a deeper universality. it is the rupture in language which brings about the subsequent social diversity. to which translation would do ontological violence. How can a view of language that is so general shed light on the more particular questions of national identity and its specific language ideologies? Certain semiotic properties come to be topics of interest or sources of concern only under certain circumstances. For example. In utopian or messianic thought the notion is that if humans can get beyond differences of form. And this recurrent theme animates an important strand in ideas of “modernity. By combining two kinds of distinction (between linguistic functions. namely.

and how they respond in practice. then what does it mean to say it “belongs” to the people of the nation? Babel and Domination in Postcolonial Critique The story of Babel asks us to wonder why there should be differences when once there was unity – and. are historically variable questions. This decentering also raises questions about the political status of languages. but also remain human (it communicates). making it an objectified focus of ideological concern. in part.Webb Keane The arbitrariness that lies at the heart of the linguistic sign in most academic theories at least since John Locke (Bauman and Briggs 2000) can be a source of ambivalence for modernizing projects. developed. It should share certain properties of divine language (transcending existing disunities). nor is the very existence of such boundaries merely a “linguistic” fact. the constituting of identities involves ideologies about language differences. including shifting perceptions about the very existence of boundaries. by-product of our fallen state. If national language takes the decentering inherent in language and carries it to a higher degree. is not simply an unfortunate. Moreover. it would seem. perhaps even created anew. Potentially a source of alienation. This potential for publicness and circulation are functions. These fundamental semiotic issues bear specific historical entailments. most puzzling when language is taken primarily to be a vehicle for the making of (potentially) true statements. This question. expresses a yearning for that lost universality. The need for translation. Therein has often been seen to lie some of the promise of the national language. of the suppression of those indexical links to particular contexts – to social interactions. for instance. Rather. becomes less mysterious when the social and political pragmatics of language are taken into view. Sociolinguistics has long recognized. obscure places – that are part of what make “local” languages supposedly unfit for the nation. traditional hierarchies. even contingent. but displays speakers’ and listeners’ political insistence on their distinctiveness from others. Language may be manipulated. boundaries between languages do not simply reflect differences of social or political identity. in this light. Whether people take the decentering that language entails to be of interest and whether negative or positive. parochial memories. it also allows one to see language as the object of human actions. improved. It should translate in both a vertical sense – elevating speakers out of the social and even semantic confines of their local languages – and a horizontal sense – situating them on a plane that will permit them to circulate among other languages of the world. As Judith Irvine and Susan Gal (2000) have argued. That which renders language a possible object of suspicion at the same time makes it available for a certain optimism about what language engineering can achieve. it is clear that boundaries do – 158 – . that distinctions of language construct social boundaries and constitute hierarchies.

Invoking this experience to attack Achebe’s modernist optimism. Explication performs an act of interpretation on words that had been left to the recipient to interpret and can thus appear as a form of aggressiveness. but typically involve both ideological and practical relations of encompassment. it has owners (1994 [1986]: 436). Ngugi treats language as the property of its speakers. Linguistic differences are rarely if ever neutral. The Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o wrote that when he was a child. More specifically. italics in the original). and “English became more than a language: it was the language. and the language of our immediate and wider community. subordination and dominance (Silverstein 1998). In colonial situations. Thus colonial education is a form of violent expropriation – it takes away the language one truly possesses – and alienation – it forces one to use a language that belongs to others. He thus seems to conflate two kinds of “violence. An opposed position stresses the ways in which translation offends against the self-possession of the speaker. between the language that is the “carrier” of one’s culture (1994 [1986]: 439) and that which is only a means of communication with outsiders. these basic semiotic problems underlie arguments about efforts to reclaim local linguistic identity and discursive powers from the effects of colonial domination. introducing a rupture between the language of education and that of home. and so offends against the shared tacit knowledge that defines intimates. bringing peoples together in a global ecumene. those who spoke their mother tongue were punished. Thus the reinstatement of opacity between languages becomes a means of resisting domination and fostering autonomous agency. translation requires some sort of explication or contextualization that is not necessary in the original. the Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe (1994 [1975]) draws on both views in his argument that African writers should use English because it allows them to communicate across Africa and with the world at large.On Indonesian not simply separate but also hierarchize. Here the claims of universality mask and legitimate a historically specific set of political relations. a rupture within experience. On the one hand. Indeed. a modernist and developmentoriented position tends to stress the view that a standardized national language is a vehicle of the movement toward universality. In the postcolonial context.” that which transpires – 159 – . and the language of our work in the fields were one” (1994 [1986]: 438). he spoke Gikuyu. Moreover. and all the others had to bow before it in deference” (1994 [1986]: 438. a supposedly “richer” language should provide resources for the improvement of one that is more “impoverished. the colonizers and the indigenous “petty bourgeoisie. the Western claims to understand and master indigenous others that are enacted through translation may be crucial to the everyday workings of power. between spoken and written language.” Ngugi links this property model of alienation to another. “the language of our evening teach-ins.” To some extent. This harmony was broken when he went to the colonial school.

cf. One of these is the notion that language. and thus transparency among languages. and thus the resistance to translation among languages. cosmopolitan and identitarian. But by conflating these semiotic properties. which are inescapable characteristics of language. is a form of violence to human self-presence. with colonial relations. of one’s first language (cf. postcolonial critics commonly insist on particularity or heterogeneity. he risks making any challenge to actual relations of domination unthinkable or at least unspeakable. But what if one’s own most politically vital identity is constituted through a language whose greatest strengths lie in its supposed distance from the intimacies of the mother tongue? What if that identity even seems to demand a certain willing sacrifice. The respective language ideologies of the cosmopolitan and the nationalist are equally suspect since the poststructuralist turn in postcolonial studies. which are historically specific forms of power. and both to an originary self-presence. If the colonial translator worked under assumptions of universality. One People: From Malay to Indonesian The modernizing projects that have been so central to nationalist movements and postcolonial states therefore reflect certain older anxieties that respond to persistent semiotic features of language. and the decontextualizing effects of writing. complexities and contradictions have become increasingly evident. Ngugi sees the move between languages to involve not merely political domination whose medium includes language. and not fully in possession of or under the control of the individual speaker. so too Ngugi’s romantic assimilation of ethnic group to language. Niranjana 1992. Kulick 1992)? The Indonesian – 160 – . but an assault on the intimacy of one’s relation to one’s words in a violence both parallel to and serving the violence of colonialism. Thus. Cosmopolitanism draws indigenous elites into foreign allegiances which may exclude people at home for whom the requisite education and mobility are not available. The essentializing claims common to national historiography and identity politics are marked by their colonial genealogies (Chakrabarty 1992). consisting of forms external to. Liu 1995. as crucial to larger projects of historical agency (Jacquemond 1992. for example. The presumption of universal transparency that allows Achebe to assume that the African writer could enter freely into English literature has been thrown into doubt. Mahrez 1992.Webb Keane in the power relations of colonialism and a more general schism that lies between authentic speech (that of the mother. One Language. Since that time. of “real-life struggles” 1994 [1986]: 437) and the general semiotic properties that decenter language – its learnability. what Derrida (1982 [1971]) calls its iterability. Achebe and Ngugi represent two versions of high modernism. a letting-go. the hearth. Spivak 1992). which flourished in the early postcolonial world.

often tried to prevent even indigenous elites from speaking it (Groeneboer 1998). formal and most mass-mediated informal communication. From that point. by turns. Unlike the British in India and French in Africa. Instead. and thus.On Indonesian case raises questions about what it means to “possess” a language.2 Malay originated along the Straits of Malacca between Sumatra and the Malay peninsula.” Indonesian. government. The oath committed the movement to one land. For the first half of the twentieth century. The birth of “Indonesian” under that name is conventionally dated to the Youth Oath of 1928. The nationalist standardizing project during and after the colonial era continued along similar lines. the official language of nationhood. the educated elite was far more comfortable in Dutch. if nothing else. in contrast to numerically dominant groups such as the Javanese. and “bahasa Indonesia” was increasingly viewed not just as a useful medium for communication but as an emblem of nationhood. The transformation of Malay into the increasingly standardized language of.” Due in part to the absence of any of the ethnic or political resistance encountered by many postcolonial national languages. the more contested position of Hindi in India – Indonesian is remarkable for its apparent “success. an effective response to an extreme linguistic situation. but by the time Europeans arrived in the area in the fifteenth century it had become a well-established lingua franca from the Moluccas to the Indian Ocean. say. Dutch and Javanese rapidly ceased to be serious contenders as languages of the nationalist movement. knowledge and use of Indonesian has spread rapidly in the last fifty years. a colonial administration. enforcing grammatical and phonological norms – and introducing vocabulary – that were quite distinct even from the existing practices of most Malay speakers. and many agreed with their Dutch teachers in considered Malay – ”that preposterous language” (Sutherland 1968: 124) – to be crude and ill-suited for serious undertakings. is a variant of Malay. But the choice of Malay for national language was not obvious. and a state apparatus and a national culture was. scholars were attempting to produce a standardized “high” variety of the language for administration. and it is perhaps a fitting irony that one of the most effective forces for its dissemination – 161 – . education. one language. missionaries and local officials tended to rely on some form of Malay. a nationalist movement. It was the native language of a small minority. one people. Propagation was largely a top-down process. Yet compared to. until the twentieth century. Sundanese. Even now some 500 languages are spoken in Indonesia. to translate between that and other languages also felt to be “one’s own” or “others’. By the end of the nineteenth century. and Madurese. being identified directly with neither the colonizer nor any single privileged ethnic group. the Dutch never seriously attempted to inculcate their own language as the medium of rule and. 14 of them by over a million speakers each (Steinhauer 1994).3 Dutch colonial policies and practices further reinforced its position across the Indies.

Indonesian had come by many of its speakers to be identified with an oppressive state apparatus. distinct from other kinds of “code switching. are two faces of the – 162 – . such as the 1945 Constitution and later Language Conferences (Halim 1984 [1976]). interpreting and reinforcing at the plane of ideology Malay speakers’ experiences of both Indonesian and. and for some is felt to lack subtlety. Yet by the 1990s.” the projection of ideological oppositions from one level to another. “improving. I want to suggest. Official Cosmopolitanism According to the scholar Ariel Heryanto (1995). In certain ways. use of Dutch was prohibited and Indonesian promoted as the chief medium of schooling and propaganda – even the talking bird in the Batavia zoo was retrained to greet ladies in Indonesian instead of Dutch (Wertheim 1964). Malay speakers’ relationship to Indonesian differs from that of speakers of other local languages only in degree. The major landmarks in the subsequent rise of Indonesian.” This may be a function of a common productive aspect of linguistic ideology. the distinction between Low Malay and Indonesian can be identified with that between the “local” and the national. From the 1920s there also began a growth in self-conscious efforts to produce an Indonesian literature in publishing ventures marked by strenuous efforts at standardizing. “the local language” at the level of practice (see Keane 1997a). Many non-standard varieties of spoken Malay flourish across the archipelago (Collins 1980). some speakers of one may not even fully command the other. and television. Anwar 1980: 1).” and “modernizing” the language. Indonesian is modern in the very processes by which it has come into being. By this logic. both linguistically and ideologically. and its heavy-handed models of development. its ideologies. But these variants are often so distinct from Indonesian. that to switch between them is a highly marked discursive move. The rapid increase in centralizing and developmental efforts under Suharto’s New Order regime (1966–1998) greatly expanded the infrastructure for controlling and disseminating the standard through vast expansions of the school system. in metalinguistic and ideological terms. by projection. These two perspectives. publishing ventures. therefore. For the switch from a “local” language into Indonesian is.g. along with the private and the public. Under the Japanese. In this way Indonesian’s authority and alterity may impose themselves over even “native” speakers of closely related variants of Malay (see Kumanireng 1982). In this light. were highly self-conscious acts of elites attempting to make language the object of their deliberate actions. beauty. it is the Indonesian language more than anything else that gives substance to the idea of there being a national culture at all. indeed. or depth (e.Webb Keane was the Japanese occupation during the Second World War. what Judith Irvine and Susan Gal (2000) have described as “fractal recursivity.

and technological settings and topics. ritual speech forms. is suppressed. an emblem of modernity and cosmopolitanism. it bears a distinct social. But there is no reason to assume that the centralizing project of the state has been fully effective. These are contexts in which the capacity of the language to index other contexts. and cognitive status. nor even in being an object of metalinguistic awareness and ideology. The question remains open whether Indonesian can be detached from the hegemony of school and officialdom or whether its promised virtues are inseparable from the sense of flatness and alienation so often imputed to it. plurilingual societies have always involved movement among linguistic varieties. national. a vehicle for translation among local. and national languages. official. respect registers. Hierarchy and Internal Translation The modernity of Indonesian does not lie in the mere fact of being a marked linguistic alternative to some “prior” language. It is the perceived otherness of Indonesian that makes it particularly well-suited as a language for national and personal development. all function in the same way or open up the same sets of possibilities. such as the lack of deep historical roots in a core population group. see Lucy 1993). and international planes. acquired after a “local language. the peculiarly “modern” character of Indonesian in its ideological attributes and practical functions. and a medium for speaking across social distance. It is the language most appropriate for public. What for the romantic nationalist may seem to be liabilities. however. As such they are meant to impose ordering effects on uses of the language in other situations. The ubiquity of taboo and avoidance vocabularies. apart from abstractions like statehood and rationality. however. For the vast majority of the population at the beginning of the twenty-first century. The uses of Indonesian tend to follow the patterns of register or code-switching familiar from other high. and official documents attempt quite explicitly to authorize the standard’s claims. it is that we should be wary of taking the attempt for the result.” Even when linguistically close to that first language.On Indonesian same thing. national. If anything has become clear since the fall of Suharto. secretive jargons and so forth shows the ubiquity of a capacity to step into a language perceived as markedly apart from ordinary speech. official.4 These contexts and associations may not. have for most of the history of Indonesian nationalism been virtues. educated. Marked linguistic varieties can – 163 – . After all. It is too soon to predict how this standardizing project will fare in post-New Order Indonesia. speeches. Schools. of mass media and the economically higher-order marketplaces. political. Indonesian remains a clearly defined second language. a mark of sophistication. This movement can be habitual and unconscious but also subject to highly self-aware actions and forms of linguistic self-objectification (Voloshinov 1973 [1930].

its vision of referential transparency. Thus. especially in Javanese. These functions. Indonesian thus differs from earlier forms of “internal translation” in its links to the modernist and cosmopolitan aspirations that underwrote its emergence. “Internal translation” (Zurbuchen 1989) is the hallmark of traditional Javanese and Balinese performance. often conceptualized as the speech of casual relations and intimacy figured as that between mother and child (Siegel 1986). 1997) has argued that Indonesian is functionally similar to “high” Javanese in that children learn to replace what they would have said in their original language with words imposed from without.” “middle” and “low” Javanese. as in punning. Crossroads like the Indonesian archipelago have long been swept by linguistic currents and even the relatively hegemonic monologism of precolonial central Java was permeated with words and phrases of Arabic. and so forth. formal Indonesian had appropriated so much foreign and archaistic vocabulary that it was growing increasingly incomprehensible to all but the elite. Malay. maleness. Against it. James Siegel (1986. But if taboo and slang languages aim to create barriers within relatively more open language varieties. commonly by putting the materiality of signifiers in the foreground. the marked category is the speech of seriousness. by contrast Indonesian is ideologically supposed to open outward. that has stimulated some of the most insightful contemporary interpretations of the national language. and the fact that it presents itself as an alternative to hierarchical registers. with profoundly decentering implications for the speaker’s sense of having an “own” language. Rather.Webb Keane be highly productive. Central Java is especially famous for its elaborate register differences by which minute distinctions of social hierarchy are marked by lexical choices among the vocabulary sets of “high. in which archaic languages steeped in Sanskritic vocabulary alternate with commentaries in contemporary idioms that permit audiences to follow the action. One register forms the unmarked category. remnants of scriptural Sanskrit. the region is well known for certain highly elaborated register differences. To speak the high language is thus to display the suppression of the low (as retrospectively construed). Benedict Anderson (1990a [1966]. drawing on speakers’ metalinguistic awareness to create new forms. may go beyond the strategic play of status and exclusion. With these resources to draw on. and taking on many of the social functions of “high” Javanese. Errington (2000) has argued that this is part of an alternative kind of linguistic authority to that of the rationalist modernist standard. adulthood and. acronyms. Despite its deep roots in Old Malay. it has – 164 – . often. formality. a persistence of the authority of “exemplary centers” characteristic of much older Javanese and other Southeast Asian forms of hierarchy. It is this analogy of Indonesian to other such forms of register-shifting. Indonesian has not generally called on primordialist ideologies for its legitimacy. see Hooker 1993) pointed out that within a generation of independence. and perhaps bits of Hokkien. however.

for instance. it perhaps only displays openly what is ideologically obscured for other languages). but its promise of escape from register systems altogether. As one Javanese man recalled of the late colonial era. Indonesian even today is widely perceived to lack two things that other languages are supposed to have (but in this respect. avoided Malay as being a demeaning “language of merchants” (Wielenga 1913: 144). the use of Indonesian seems to reach for this neutrality and freedom from hierarchy. treating language as a set of arbitrary signs that are subject to self-liberating forms of human agency. But in the heyday of modernist nationalism.” it was a good way to speak with a friend. But if you cannot speak that language. cf Silverstein 1996).” Indonesian by contrast is supposed to be open to all. or too condescending (Errington 1985: 60).” it does not. “If you are asked a question by someone. and as a vehicle for the modernization of Indonesian subjects and society. Egalitarian and Vulgar In the early decades of the twentieth century. It is not commonly perceived to possess either a clear social-geographical “center” or exemplary “best” speakers (Goenawan 1982: 321. the very practices through which Indonesian emerged bear the marks of language ideologies that are linked to ideas of modernity. in principle. As a late colonial-era Javanese guide to etiquette advised. Free. too close. The very lack of status markers that they avoided was something that others sought. Nobles in early twentieth-century Sumba. since it failed to provide speakers with clear positions of hierarchy relative to one another. But both the apparent crudity and the foreignness of Malay were also sources of its appeal. This is more than a matter of explicit claims on its behalf. use Malay” (quoted in Errington 1985: 59). As I have noted. Lacking a presumed “center. Moeliono 1994) expresses a degree of ambivalence: its supposed lack of subtlety and depth is inseparable from its accessibility.On Indonesian always been portrayed as modern. although Malay “lacked intimacy. which was seen as a function of – 165 – . not too distant. what language should your answer be in? Use the language of the questioner. the lack of centers was taken to be an advantage. This was one source of the perception that Indonesian was vulgar. Unlike a Herderian language of the “people. the elites typically considered Malay a vulgar language. exclude any potential speakers. Thus the common assertion that Indonesian – like Swahili (Fabian 1986) and Hindi (Cohn 1996 [1985]) – is an “easy” language (Anwar 1989. At least in the early years. Spatially and socially demarcated linguistic centers enable speakers to measure their linguistic correctness – or failings. The modernity and rationality imputed to Indonesian produced its supposed egalitarianism. The value of Indonesian was not a mere matter of conveying denotations across linguistic boundaries.

erecting a new culture in accordance with the passion of the spirit and age” (1977 [1948]: 16). the state since its inception has been actively working to foster “good and true” (baik dan benar) Indonesian. The ordinary experience of learning Indonesian and the critical discourses surrounding it reproduce one of the central features of its supposed modernity. the move into Indonesian is meant to avoid the overt display of status – 166 – . Unlike one’s mother tongue. To the extent that it is seen to be non-natural and “external” to the actor. attacked nationalist primordialism by asserting that Indonesia is a creation of the twentieth century (Takdir Alisjahbana 1977 [1948]: 14–15). the risks concern the projected self and its presupposed others. language is also. that humans can and must take their destiny in their own hands. he said that the task of the young Indonesian is “culture creation (Dutch cultuurscheppen). its speakers feeling their command to be imperfect. a crucial figure in forging language policy. the plethora of public criticism seems to have produced insecurity. pamphlets. a combination of personal and national anxiety captured in the book title Have You Sufficiently Cultivated Our Language of Unity? (Tjokronegoro 1968). The formal learning process and the association with writing encourage a sense that one ought to have an active. But this effort is not restricted to the state. this “ease” is reportedly less a matter of linguistic code than of interaction. Indonesian usage and vocabulary has been the subject of advice columns.Webb Keane its apparent “ease. self-conscious. Not surprisingly. Writing for the World In the egalitarian aspirations of early Indonesian nationalists and many speakers today as well. To these ends. and letters to editors. Even if Indonesian failed to sustain this egalitarian promise through the New Order period (1965–1998). Both language and speaker would thus need improvement. which I have taken to be central to ideologies of modernity. the sense of otherness remains a component of its modernity. What is remarkable is that this ease is granted not by the speaker’s intuitive and habitual mastery of a first language. in principle. and rational control over this language. one’s language should be improved. but by the conscious control associated with the second. From the beginning (Adam 1995). Indeed. Indonesian is commonly portrayed as incomplete. in view of the notion.” For young Javanese. In 1948. Sutan Takdir Alisjahbana. the privileged role of rational human agency. Writing in an Indonesian sprinkled with Dutch words. available as an object of manipulation. in contrast to the relatively unself-conscious mastery of one’s mother tongue (Kumanireng 1982). This sets up Indonesian as peculiarly the object of metalinguistic discourses and fosters the notion that it can be subject to purposeful manipulation. at least.

Here’s one: Indonesian was supposed to replace the social hierarchies built into local languages with a modern egalitarianism. expressions presupposing local knowledge. Linguistic innovation thereby is supposed to fulfill the early nationalist project of eliminating the more “feudal” elements of local culture. as a modern language. be free to become cosmopolitan and egalitarian (see Gal and Woolard 1995). In common with some religious utopias. significant rhymes. As in other language-reform movements. For example. in this view. performative. say. phrases with magical powers. in effect. proper nouns in which semantic sense clashes with sense-less reference. imply an urge to escape from semiotic mediation itself (Keane 2001). In practice. or makan (to eat) with dahar to indicate respect without necessarily implying adherence to the entire register system of Javanese. and poetic dimensions of language in favor of reference and semantics – an emphasis that seems to be endemic to ideologies of the public sphere (Warner 2002: 83). at the extreme. This is evident even in simple lexical innovation. the most direct attack seemed to be to eliminate the most obvious – that is. this aims to remove words from the cultural context that made them indexical of status differences or other aspects of interaction and locality. Thus the transparency and translatability of Indonesian. In effect. a modern national standard. denies the indexical. first and second person – 167 – .On Indonesian differences. and so forth. According to Minister of Education and Culture Daoed Joesoef (1983). such as the Quaker refusal to say you in seventeenth-century England. should seek to render its denotative functions transparent and work against the materiality of signifiers. Such abstraction. It does so by seeking a language beyond any particular culture. pronouns indexical of interaction-relative status. It should aspire (however impossibly) to eliminate those aspects of meaning that might be altered when repeated in different contexts. should work in collaboration with its egalitarian promise: both presume an ability to transcend the limits of interactive contexts. for instance. be no puns. there have been many experiments in replacing those most fraught elements. There should. difficulties of phrasing due to syntactic peculiarities. A language removed from the supposed restrictions and hierarchies of localized cultural contexts should. In contrast to the workings of. one might replace the everyday form sakit (ill) with high Javanese gering. taboo languages or underworld slangs. this aspect of idea of modernity might even. lexicalized – indexes of status. Indonesian takes advantage of the alternatives afforded by preexisting register differences. Pragmatic Paradoxes of the Public This story contains many ironies.5 To that end. it would seem. or that might be lost in translation. deictics with specific topographical anchors. this means a language supposedly abstractable from interactive contexts and the cultural presuppositions they invoke.

the world of his or her birth. kinship. has always been an option in multilingual situations) but to improve it. a medium whose most powerful claims on its speakers included the promise of liberation. to its associations with certain aspects of the modernist project. and an ever-growing number of opaque acronyms. For second person. however. to claim a public persona markedly apart from some presupposed prior self and its social relations. in semiotic terms. and in the process. Indeed. resulting in ambivalences and anxieties that are far from resolved (see Siegel 1997). in the choice to step out of – even to sacrifice – one language and not only to speak another one (this. By the time of the New Order regime. I want to suggest this may be due. The fact that anda has met very limited acceptance in spoken interaction suggests how difficult it is to inhabit so abstract a social position. had become deeply associated with the centralizing project of the authoritarian state. One may hear echoes of a common theme in early Indonesian literature (as in much nationalist and early postcolonial writing). Sanskritisms. This autonomy is manifested in the speaker’s agency relative to language itself. This is surely true. after all. According to Goenawan Mohamad (1995).Webb Keane pronouns. And. what had begun as a rationalist effort to escape the indexical links to interaction and localized contexts had itself become a meta-discursive index in its own right. Anglicisms. at least in part. in some respects the paradox may be implicit in some modernist visions of freedom to the extent that they couple enhanced agency with increased control over an object world. and the supposedly neutral anda coined in the 1950s has found its true home as the term for the universal addressee of advertising and public announcements. but also asserts a modernist claim to personal autonomy. and tradition. The conscious choice of this word seeks not only to dislodge the speaker from existing social relations. the effort to create a national public through language reform either failed (by producing an exclusive – 168 – . but it does not explain why the supposedly neutral and egalitarian aku should have those particular connotations. second. In political terms. Overall. when the poet Chairil Anwar used it in the 1940s. The elites of the New Order increasingly laid exclusive claims over the language through the proliferation of Javanisms. the cosmopolitan aspirations of Indonesian faced a conjoined set of paradoxes. Goenawan says this is because the authoritarian climate of the Suharto regime made individualism seem dangerous. it had come to sound arrogant and egotistical. it seemed a heroic challenge to hierarchy. Among the attempted reforms. the weight this put on the sheer materiality of signifiers as well as their capacity to index access to restricted sources of knowledge was a direct threat to the cosmopolitan openness of a transparent language that had been sought by high modernists. the clash between modern urban freedom and the constraints of village. one occasionally encounters people who use the English you. As critics of such usages made apparent. By the 1990s. the once-intimate word aku was promoted as the preferred first person singular of literary writing. for instance.

they may not recognize him for who he would be for them. thus retains a certain modernist austerity and even heroism. historical. Seeking their recognition begins by his own effort to recognize who they might be (say. most open to being understood from within other languages. To do so requires that he – like.g. continue to emerge outside the officially constituted “public” (e. Recall the anecdote with which this essay began: Amien Rais at his most authoritatively public. the process of associating language with projects of development and especially with literary culture entails not just an obvious elitism. Yet wordplay. it seems to exist in a paradoxical relation to the claims of national cultural identity in two respects. subversive slangs. They commonly focus on the materiality of linguistic form. however covertly. or interactive contexts. new vernaculars. Zimmer 1998). may yet unleash new possibilities. founding a national party in a moment of historical crisis. but a certain disembedding of what a national “culture” could mean. As a modernist project. the standard language as an emblem of national culture and political identity seems to depend on an ability to take the materiality of semiotic form to be plastic matter. and entails a degree of risk – that. As a dominant language ideology. Such openness to other languages through translation would seem to render problematic the nationalist claim to “possess” that language for oneself (while avoiding the potentially dangerous politics of language and ethnicity that “possession” can invite). as if to deny the modernists’ claims for transparency. as it unravels. Sukarno himself (Leclerc 1994) – imagine and take on the perspective of his most distant potential interlocutors. notably. least confined to particular geographical. and even growing Islamicist uses of Arabic. Perhaps we can see in these hints of alternatives to engineered standardization that may yet emerge. American political observers). – 169 – . By the same token. to the extent that it aspires to the most textual and most translatable pole of language. national identity commonly seeks culture in language that one can stand outside of. it ties the project of asserting historical agency to a more problematic one of mastery over language itself – a tie that. seems to aspire to a cosmopolitan transparency. failing to translate his words correctly. subordinate to immaterial denotations and the intentions of those who could somehow stand apart from it. First. however betrayed and disappointed. Widodo 1997.On Indonesian and controlling “high” language of the state) or succeeded only ambiguously (by offering speakers only the most notional public identities and constrained rhetorical possibilities). To the extent that the project of asserting historical agency retains its genealogical ties to ideologies of the modern. finding there not something that escapes translation – something one could call uniquely one’s “own” – but that which is most translatable. Second. So functionally reductive and objectified a view of language would seem to presuppose and promote the self-possession of subjects for whom nothing important eludes translation and everything can be made explicit. Chambert-Loir 1984. this vision of Indonesian.

2. Thanks to Pete Becker.” In Colonial Discourse and Post-colonial Theory: A Reader.Webb Keane Notes 1. 4. Wolff and Poedjosoedarmo 1982. Post-independence censuses show those claiming Indonesian as their first language as 12 percent in 1980 and 15. Teeuw 1973. and Amrih Widodo. Mellie Ivy. Oetomo 1987. Cornell. Pramoedya 1963. Columbia. Princeton. about 4. Maier 1993. whether the linguistic distinctions between them matter ideologically is highly context-dependent. 3. Goenawan Mohamad. Sue Gal. 5.8 percent Javanese and 15. and the University of Michigan Humanities Institute. Takdir 1957. Joe Errington. Lee Schlesinger. For the history of Indonesian see Anwar 1980. they were subsumed within an objectivistic ideology by which language was seen to function primarily to refer to and denote an external world. I am grateful for support from the Institute for Advanced Study. 1989. References Achebe. Ariel Heryanto.5 percent in 1990 (compared to 38. Acknowledgments Earlier versions of this chapter were presented at a Wenner-Gren Conference on Translation and Anthropology. Yopie Prins.6 percent Sundanese [Hooker 1993: 273. Mühlhäusler 1996: 205. standard Indonesian has sought to deny their social implications. Hoffman 1979. John Pemberton. Bahasa Indonesia. Patrick Williams and Laura – 170 – . for their comments. 1997. Henk Maier. 1977. In 1928. and at the Universities of Chicago. the Association for Asian Studies annual meeting.” is a variant of Malay. Steinhauer 1994]). By reducing the options among even those pronouns available in Malay (Errington 1998). literally “the language of Indonesia. and Michigan. “The African Writer and the English Language. Henk Schulte Nordholt. Kumanireng 1982.8 percent speaking Javanese and 14. Vince Rafael. and owe something to less formal conversations in the Michicagoan Linguistic Anthropology Faculty Workshop. Rudolph Mrázek. Chinua. In the process. On the problem of pronouns and Indonesian national identity see Benedict Anderson (1990a) and James Siegel (1997). For a succinct statement linking proper choice of first person pronoun and the “anti-feudal principle of democracy” see Ali 2000: 153–6. NJ. See the sociolinguistic accounts in Errington 1998. compared to 47. Moeliono 1994. Nancy Florida.9 percent of the population of the Indies spoke Malay as their native language.5 per cent Sundanese (Moeliono 1994: 378). Beth Povinelli.

Anderson. 1982 [1971]. Ali. 105–117. Kuala Lumpur: Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka. 1996. 1980. Revolution: Java 1900–1950. 2d ed. pp. 1995 . The Vernacular Press and the Emergence of Modern Indonesian Consciousness (1855–1913). 1990a [1966]. Polities. Richard. pp. Briggs. 16–56. feodalisme dan egaliterisme.htm). Fantasy. pp. “The Command of Language and the Language of Command.” In Margins of Philosophy. James T. Alan Bass. Marshall. pp. 1998. 2000. Collins. Kroskrity (ed. Southeast Asia Series. 1985. “Those who Speak prokem. 1992. Ahmat B. 54–60.). Athens OH: Ohio University Monographs in International Studies. Lev and Ruth McVey (eds. pp. Derrida.” In Colonialism and its Forms of Knowledge: The British in India. 123–151. Adam. Bernard S. “Bahasa akademik.). Berman. and Identities. Joseph. Paul V. Jacques. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Khaidir Indonesian: The Development and Use of a National Language Yogyakarta: Gadjah Mada University Press. 1996 [1985]. 1984.) New York and Harmondsworth: Penguin. New York: Columbia University Press.co. and Charles L. 28 October 1983.On Indonesian Chrisman (eds. “The Languages of Indonesian Politics. 1–26. Amien Rais Wawancara Amien Rais: “Saya memilih sebagai tokoh bangsa daripada tokoh umat. J. – 171 – . Chambert-Loir. Joeseof. Trans. Daniel S. O’G.tempo. 428–434. Cornell University. 6. Lukman. James T. 7. pp. 1980. 1994 [1975]. “Language Philosophy as Language Ideology: John Locke and Johann Gottfried Herder. Language and Social Change in Java: Linguisic Reflexes of Modernization in a Traditional Royal Polity. All that is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity. Santa Fe: School of American Research. Indonesia 37 (April). Dipesh. Pp. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Benedict R.” Tempo Interaktif Edisi 25/03–22 Agustus 1998 (http:// www. “Post-coloniality and the Artifice of History: Who Speaks for ‘Indian’ Pasts?” Representations 37.” Trans. 1998.” Prisma 18. Collins. 26–40. bahasa Indonesia. Ithaca: Southeast Asia Program. No 65.). Cohn. —— “Bahasa.id /min/25/nas2. Ithaca: Cornell University Southeast Asia Program. Errington. “Signature Event Context. 139–204.” In Regimes of Language: Ideologies. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 2000. pp. 1989. 17.” Sinar Harapan. Kahin.” In Making Indonesia: Essays on Modern Indonesia in Honor of George McT. Michel. Chakrabarty. pp. bahasa asing. Anwar. —— “Language. In Language and Power: Exploring Political Cultures in Indonesia. Ambonese Malay and Creolization Theory. Daoed. Studies in Southeast Asia No. Bauman. Lengser Kaprabon: Kumpulan Kolom tentang Pemakaian Bahasa Indonesia Jakarta: Pustaka Firdaus.

321–322. Hooker. Judith T. 2000. – 172 – . Trans. and Identities. Ariel. Susan and Kathryn A. Gateway to the West: The Dutch Language in Colonial Indonesia. Halim.” In Politik Bahasa Nasional (1). Jacquemond.” Indonesia 27. 1995. Jakarta: Grafiti. pp. Paul V. Irvine. “Constructing Languages and Publics: Authority and Representation. Halim. Keane. 1982. Ideology. “Bahasa.” Cultural Anthropology 12(1).). ‘Modernity. Dept of Linguistics. Language of Development and Development of Language: The Case of Indonesia Pacific Linguistics Series D – 86. 65–92. 139–158. 2001. John. Virginia Matheson. Canberra: Australian National University. 35–83. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. 13–25. pp. “Fungsi Politik Bahasa Nasional. Kroskrity (ed. Kroskrity (ed. 1995. 1992. Heryanto. “New Order Language in Context.). Language and Colonial Power: The Appropriation of Swahili in the Former Belgian Congo 1880–1938. Lawrence Venuti (ed.” In Regimes of Language: Ideologies. (ed.’ and the Protestants. Departmen Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan). Hoffman. 2000. “Knowing One’s Place: National Language and the Idea of the Local in Eastern Indonesia. 29–138. Jakarta: Balai Pustaka. pp. (Pusat Pembinaan dan Pengembangan Bahasa. Richard. pp. 1997b. Johannes. the Speaking Subject. Santa Fe: School of American Research Press. and Identities.). —— “From Fetishism to Sincerity: On Agency. 37–63. 1993. Amran. “A Foreign Investment: Indies Malay to 1901. Kees. 1995. 298–99. London and New York: Routledge. pp. 1984 [1976].). pp. “Translation and Cultural Hegemony: The Case of FrenchArabic Translation.” In Catatan Pinggir (1). Paul V.). 1998. 674–693. Berkeley: University of California Press. —— “Aku. —— “Indonesian(‘s) authority. Polities.” Catatan Pinggir (4) Jakarta: Grafiti. 1997a. pp.” In Culture and Society in New Order Indonesia. pp. 1986. 1998. Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies.” In Regimes of Language: Ideologies. pp.” Cultural Anthropology 17(1). “Language Ideology and Linguistic Differentiation. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press. A History of Language Policy. Webb. Woolard. pp. Groeneboer. Polities. 65–92. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Subjectivity. Santa Fe: School of American Research Press.” In Rethinking Translation: Discourse. Hooker (ed. Goenawan Mohamad. 205–257. and Their Historicity in the Context of Religious Conversion. Myra Scholz. Fabian.” Pragmatics 5(2). 1979.Webb Keane —— Shifting Languages: Interaction and Identity in Javanese Indonesia. —— “Sincerity. pp.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 39(4). and Susan Gal. Gal.

Anton M. 1994. “The Language of African Literature. 672–698. 63. Peter. John A. pp. pp. Post-colonialism. 131–136. 377–388. 1992. Tryon (eds. New York: Columbia. C-76. Polities. 311–316. Benjamin.” In Rethinking Translation: Discourse. “Le dernier 17 Août de Sukarno Président. 1994. pp. In Colonial Discourse and Post-colonial Theory: A Reader. 1900–1937. Jacques. National Culture. —— “‘We are Playing Relatives’: Riau. In Papers from the Third International Conference on Austronesian Linguistics. and Syncretism in a Papua New Guinean Village. pp. Maier. 1992.). The Chinese of Pasuruan: Their Language and Identity. Vol. Berkeley: University of California Press. Land. Pacific Linguistics Series D–No.en Volkenkunde 153(4). Oetomo. 1995. Lydia H.A. Kulick. S. Subjectivity. pp. Leclerc. (ed. Tejaswini. Patrick Williams and Laura Chrisman (eds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Lois Carrington. 1993. Pacific Linguistics. and Identities. Ngugi wa Thiong’o. October. J. Hendrik M. Wurm (eds. London and New York: Routledge.).On Indonesian Kroskrity. Translingual Practice: Literature. 2002. (ed. 120–138. Trends in Linguistics: Studies and Monographs 77. Liu. Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter. 3: Accent on Variety. Flores: A Study about Language Use and Language Switching among the Larantuka Community. Amran Halim. 1994 [1986]. 1996.” Public Culture 14(1).). Wolfgang Marschall (ed. Dédé. Reflexive Language: Reported Speech and Metapragmatics. Lucy. Lee.” In Language Contact and Change in the Austronesian World. Lawrence Venuti (ed. 435–455. 191–213. Berne: University of Berne Institute of Ethnology. London and New York: Routledge. Threes Y.). and Edward LiPuma. Samia. Niranjana. Ideology. 1982. Linguistic Ecology: Language Change and Linguistic Imperialism in the Pacific Region. Paul V. “Cultures of Circulation: The Imaginations of Modernity. “From Heteroglossia to Polyglossia: The Creation of Malay and Dutch in the Indies. Stanford: Stanford University Press. “Diglossia in Larantuka.). 2000. and Translated Modernity – China. pp. Self. – 173 – . Siting Translation: History. 37–65. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1987. and the Colonial Context. Mühlhäusler. Santa Fe: School of American Research Press. Kumanireng. the Cradle of Reality and Hybridity. Tom Dutton & Darrell T. pp. Moeliono. Don. 1992. Mahrez. “Contact-induced Language Change in Present-day Indonesian.” In Texts from the Islands: Oral and Written Traditions of Indonesia and the Malay World.). Canberra: Research School of Pacific Studies. 1993. Language Shift and Cultural Reproduction: Socialization. Regimes of Language: Ideologies.” Indonesia 56. “Translation and the Post-colonial Experience: The Francophone North African Text.” Bijdragen tot de Taal-. pp. 1997.).

“The Indonesian Language Situation and Linguistics. 17– 60. Donald Brenneis and Ronald K. Silverstein. 1968. Hein. “Pudjangga Baru: Aspects of Indonesian Intellectual Life in the 1930s. —— Language Planning for Modernization: The Case of Indonesian and Malaysian. Achdiat K. 106–127. Macaulay (eds. 1992. Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity. Mihardja (ed. Roy Harris. Dari Perdjuangan dan Pertumbuhan Bahasa Indonesia. Boulder. A. Heather. 1963. Pramoedya Ananta Toer.” Bijdragen tot de Taal-. pp. 1989. Solo in the New Order: Language and Hierarchy in an Indonesian City. The Hague: Mouton. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Bandung: Eresc. R. Marxism and the Philosophy of Language. “Monoglot ‘Standard’ in America: Standardization and Metaphors of Linguistic Hegemony. 177–200. Trans. S. Cambridge. 755–784. Urban. Ladislav Matejka and I. 1977 [1948]. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.N. Charles Bally and Albert Sechehaye (eds. Annual Review of Anthropology 27. A. Steiner. Gayatri Chakravorty. – 174 – . —— Fetish. Oxford. 1998. 401–26.). Land. 1997.en Volkenkunde 150(4). 2001. Michèle Barrett and Anne Phillips (eds. Mayor Polak. B. Recognition. pp. Saussure. F. —— “Contemporary Transformations of Local Linguistic Communities. Cambridge: Polity. Taylor.” In Destabilizing Theory: Contemporary Feminist Debates. Pegawai Bahasa dan Ilmu Bahasa. J. pp.” In The Matrix of Language: Contemporary Linguistic Anthropology. Charles. Trans. 1976. “The Politics of Translation. “Basa Indonesia sebagai basa revolusi Indonesia. Jakarta: Pustaka Jaya.Webb Keane —— “Bahasa Indonesia dan kelas menengah Indonesia.). Takdir Alisjahbana. Voloshinov. pp. —— “Menuju masyarakat dan kebudayaan baru Indonesia – Prae-Indonesia. Ferdinand de. Michael. After Babel: Aspects of Language and Translation London.” Prisma 18. Titunik. Teeuw. Metaculture: How Culture Moves through the World. CO: Westview. V. 1986. 1973 [1971]. Greg. 1968. Sutherland. Jakarta: Bhratara.” Bintang Timor. 1975. 1973 [1930]. 1989.” Indonesia 6 October. Spivak. pp. 22 September et seq. Tjukupkah Saudara Membina Bahasa Kesatuan Kita? Djakarta. 284–306. Course in General Linguistics. New York: Seminar Press. George. Djakarta: Pustaka Rakyat. Sutan. Princeton: Princeton University Press.). and New York: Oxford University Press. Trans. 1996. James T. 1986 [1915]. 1957. Siegel. IL: Open Court. 1994.).” In Polemik Kebudayaan: Pokok Pikiran. La Salle. MA: Harvard University Press. pp. Tjokronegoro. Steinhauer. Revolution. Sutomo.

” Public Culture 14(1). The Hague: W.” Antara Kita 54. Amrih. pp. Zurbuchen. “Internal Translation in Balinese Poetry. John U. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. A.” In Imagining Indonesia: Cultural Politics and Political Culture.L.). pp. Wielenga. van Hoeve. Widodo. 49–90. 1989. 138–150. and Soepomo Poedjosoedarmo.On Indonesian Warner. Cornell Southeast Asia Program. Data Paper no 116. – 175 – . pp. 4–9. 215–279. “Samin and the New Order: The Politics of Encounter and Isolation. Wolff. Jim Schiller and Barbara Martin-Schiller (eds. OH: Ohio University Center for International Studies. Wertheim. K. Benjamin G. 1998. F. Michael. Becker (ed. Ann Arbor: Michigan Papers on South and Southeast Asia. pp. 1997. “Publics and Counterpublics. D. Mary S. pp. “The new dis-order: Parodic plésétan and the ‘Slipping’ of the Soeharto Regime. Zimmer. “Zending en taalstudie. In Writing on the Tongue. University of Michigan. 1913.). Indonesian Society in Transition: A Study of Social Change. 2002. 1982.” De Macedoniër 17. Athens. 261–287. 2d ed. Communicative Codes in Central Java. Linguistic Series viii. 1964. W.


The general practice of orientalists in recent years has been to adopt one of the various sets of conventional signs for the letters and vowel marks of the Arabic alphabet. he adds. This method is useful to those who know what it means.” James Clifford (1990: 58) I Included in the front matter of Seven Pillars of Wisdom (1935).–7– Notes on Transliteration Brinkley Messick “Transcription always raises questions about translation. transliterating Mohamed as Muhammad. in a Preface prepared by the author’s brother A. exactly. E. is a quoted remark by T. muezzin as mu’edhdhin. which gives the dates of his movements in Arabia in 1917–18. to prevent my appearing an adherent of one of the existing ‘systems of transliteration’. (p. but a wash-out for the world.” Before quoting his brother in the Preface. W. 21) In the back matter of the book. A. not only because the sound of many Arabic words can legitimately be represented in English in a variety – 177 – . for their consonants are not the same as ours. “Arabic names are spelt anyhow. helpful to people who know enough Arabic not to need helping. vary from district to district. in Appendix II (p. but this book follows the old fashion of writing the best phonetic approximations according to ordinary English spelling. to show what rot the systems are. The same place-name will be found spelt in different ways. W. Lawrence about his spelling of the many Arabic names that appear in his book: Arabic names won’t go into English. like ours. Lawrence (p. 20) had calmly explained that only three vowels are recognized in Arabic. and Koran as Qur’an or Kur’an. 664). A. There are some “scientific systems” of transliteration. W. then anticipates his brother’s remark as he goes on to say that.. I spell my names anyhow. and that some of the consonants have no equivalents in English. and their vowels.

” the author counters. The pattern of target texts for these earlier translations of Islamic legal manuals generally followed the interests of the Orientalists’ respective colonial regimes. was Jedhad on Slip 40. ‘killed one Rueli’. and sometimes even rhymed to facilitate memorization. ‘Rualla horse’. The much longer but also conventional prose commentary works have not been translated. 1927).” Lawrence replies. On Slip 23. English scholars on the Hanafi school adhered to by Indian Muslims. In all later slips ‘Rualla’.” to “Jedha. I shall return to examine some disciplinary versions of such remarks.” To “The Bisaita is also spelt Biseita. and Dutch scholars on the Shafi`i school followed by Muslims in Java and elsewhere in Southeast Asia.” the reply is. In my research on highland Yemen. but also because the natives of a district often differ as to the pronunciation of any place-name which has not already become famous or fixed by literary usage.” and to “Sherif Abd el Mayin of Slip 68 becomes el Main. Emir of the Ruwalla. often stripped-down in expression. which flourished only in uncolonized highland Yemen. When focused primarily on doctrinal texts (e. I call this really ingenious. the she-camel.” are found “full of inconsistencies in the spelling of proper names. but there was no equivalent translation for the authoritative text of the indigenous school of law. belongs to the ‘chief family of the Rualla’. “Good. el Mayein. and el Muyein.Brinkley Messick of ways. el Muein.” Later. which historically has followed two different schools of law. Intentional?” Lawrence: “Rather!” The publisher: “Nuri. “She was a splendid beast. el Mayin.g. The publisher gives a list of queries raised in reading the proofs which. Thus French scholars mainly concentrated on texts from the Maliki school of law predominant in North Africa. Messick 1993). Also quoted in the brother’s Preface are some samples of behind-the-scenes exchanges between the publisher and the author in connection with the production of an abbreviated version of the book (known as Revolt in the Desert.” II Translations from Arabic to English are a routine aspect of my work on the various textual genres of Islamic law. I could refer to the Dutch translations (into French) for my work on basic Shafi`i texts. “Should have also used Ruwala and Ruala.” Lawrence says. “Good egg. – 178 – . although otherwise “very clean. which take the published form of the “note on transliteration. my translations could in some instances draw on prior Orientalist efforts that date to the nineteenth century and earlier. and Slip 38.” The publisher: “Jeddah and Jidda used impartially throughout. The main genre translated was the authoritative basic instructional manual of each of the law schools. texts which typically are very brief.

Both are techniques of the “trans. of rendering single foreign-language words or phrases in an English language text. and punctuated pauses within sentences. where neither capital letters nor periods or other such punctuation exists in the Arabic text. As I translate. I translate large segments of the judgment texts. that of the judgments issued in shari`a court cases. In examining such features as the structure of competing legal narratives. I then might reflect on whether.Notes on Transliteration Over about a century and a half. and in part because I find a direct assault on the phenomenon of translation daunting. I also work at a very different generic level of the law. These already weighty issues taken into consideration. the detailed devices for the quotation or indirect reporting of evidential testimony and the textual markers of an authoritative legal record. These begin with such spatial interventions as the creation of sentences. cutting across this colonial patterning in the incidence of translations. my judgment texts are continuous in the original. III In part because I do not produce integral translations of texts. and for which reasons. Roughly characterized. I employ a series of seemingly mechanical presentation devices which also may be understood as deeply transformative in their own right (see Chartier 1992).” of the relations and movements between languages. or not. known by the related terms transcription and transliteration. I will address what may be considered the comparatively minor practice. Few of these have been translated in any region of the Muslim world. the mere technique. the movement was from early renderings marked by loose paraphrase to a form of rigor that required that a single word must be the consistent translation of a given Arabic term and that any additional words or phrases necessitated in the Western language (to make regular sense of the extremely concise Islamic manuals) would now be set off in parentheses. A persistent problem in such translations was the unquestioned use of Western legal terms as the translations of Islamic ones. This practice takes two very distinct forms. there was a sense of scientific progress in Orientalist translations. in which punctuation is standard. Also. I am constantly aware of two mundane pulls: between accuracy in rendering this distinctive legal Arabic and accessibility for the reader of English. Similar issues are raised by my occasionally creating paragraphs. When doing so. I not only create a print version of a handwritten original but my English translations make implicitly vowelled “readings” of the unvowelled (and sometimes also unpointed) Arabic original. and it is my ultimate hope that in this chapter an – 179 – . my English versions are relatively faithful. Unlike the modern Arabic of the printed newspaper or book. and in my own work the explication of such Islamic concepts has been a central activity. The Yemeni texts are in handwritten Arabic on vertical paper rolls.

translation. their geographies. between two worlds. The trajectory of such movements commences with the excerpting of the text to be reported. it belongs to a special intermediate language of its own. transcriptions and transliterations might be thought of analytically as the scaffolding for translation. While translation tends to leave the other language behind. even simple quotation within the same language begins to have some of the character of translation between languages. whereas in transcription and transliteration these relations are revealed and even foregrounded. the movements carried out by transcription and transliteration appear stalled or interrupted. which must drop away or be hidden in the finished product. construct a bridge between two languages. In the process. temporalities and metaphysics. one considers the relation between a reported language and a reporting language. remains not fully transformed. The resulting fragments are left betwixt and between. by design. Compared with the total transformation wrought by translation across languages. transcription and transliteration.Brinkley Messick understanding of their restricted work across languages may shed some light on that of their more formidable relative-by-prefix. specifically.” Bakhtin (1986) has discussed the analytic relations surrounding intertextual movements. arriving in its new location. in a halfway stage of language.” at least not in the complex manner of translation.” the relations between reported texts and reporting texts. The foreign word or phrase has been excerpted and inserted but. – 180 – . the foreign fragment nevertheless retains its identity as a fragment of another language. and in their mechanical faithfulness they also seem to avoid the dangerous traditore in traduttore. into the language of the reporting text. from its original source or context. These techniques would seem to raise none of the thorny “meaning” issues of translation: they do not dramatically carry meaning “across. This special language never exists as such. In translation. having neither completely departed from the reported language nor completely arrived in the reporting language. As part of his “translinguistics. in the analogous realm of interlanguage movements. a line to be quoted. the reported text both retains certain connecting filaments and resonances with its original textual site and also assumes new attachments and significances in the reporting text. and thus partially domesticated. for example. the relations between the reported and reporting languages are obscured. seemingly eradicating its physical traces. Received into an adapted English letter system. The transcribed or transliterated text remains suspended between languages and belonging properly to neither. It concludes with its insertion in a new textual location in the reporting text. in what is termed “reported speech. If. or translated. or rather. in the process. In this sense. at least independently. however. In this sense. then a distinctive difference is clear between translation and its relatives. transcription and transliteration actively preserve such traces and.

is a book of foreign-language texts in which the medium of conveyance or instruction is the system. for example.” IV Transcribe: trans + scribere (write) Transliterate: trans + litera (letter) I have referred thus far to the two techniques. transliteration is one of pieces or parts. of transcription or transliteration. Spivak. the text already has to have passed into the system used by the journal in question. but such texts characteristically remain in the background of research. Both “notes” on transcription or transliteration and those on translation partake. How much more interesting such notes can be than that other minor passage of the “pretext. we usually also get a view of the author’s sub-disciplinary identity. as in the case of Lawrence and some others to be sampled below. of the enigmatic problematic of the “preface. by Derrida (1974) and his translator. of course. special in-between language or system which is to represent a particular foreign language as it appears from time to time within the standard language of the work in question. that is. Webster’s Third International) have them as synonyms. of individual letters.” as exposed. It is rare to see a transcribed or transliterated text stand on its own two feet. In a scholarly article. I taught Moroccan Berbers to read Berber folktales published in transcription.g. Are they the same? One distinction may be suggested by their respective Latin etymologies. and in publication this adoption is implicit. Some dictionaries (e. as examples of the same phenomenon. such notes sometimes permit authors to speak directly to us or. identified and specified by its characteristic meta-site. which typically takes the form of a brief “note” in the front-matter of a book.” or “pretext. by contrast. they reveal an irreverent personality. the textual locale where it is spoken of. transcription and transliteration. “Notes” on transcription and transliteration characterize the about-to-be-introduced. of full passages and their dynamics. When this formal system is characterized by a scholar. however. Other instances arise when anthropologists develop special languages with their informants. Such “notes” have their own (admittedly minor) generic history and they might be compared with those that pertain to statements about translations found in approximately the same locale. Additionally. One exception.Notes on Transliteration but is only given rise to in the interstices of two languages. and the same lower-case Roman numerals. Fabian (1992: 86–88) describes the reoralization of a deficiently transliterated Shaba Swahili text as a step prior to translation. with little attention to interrelations. occasionally including some irascibility or wittiness. – 181 – . Where transcription is a practice of written entities.” the comparatively staid and predictable “Acknowledgments. This special language or system is marked. or language.

Together with such discipline-marking techniques as systems of citation and referencing. When longer texts – normally poetry in my field of – 182 – . transcriptions were steppingstones to translations. In their practice. At issue is the need to produce a final product with legitimating or confirming “evidence” in the form of a reported passage from the other language in question. interlinear and standard English.” as linguistic traces of “being there. As such. originally to AD and now to CE years). a sense of scientific refinement and advance. it was an activity of reading. and its technical lineage is traced not to linguistics but to the orientalists. Transcription’s pedigree leads to the universalizing aims of linguistics. in turn. and then of writing. which. and also the histories of such detailed related techniques as date conversion (e. then of writing. Like many other devices. the specialists in non-Western written texts. There were both the rough. Grafton 1997). It was elaborated in the early professional method of “text-taking. Transliteration pertains to the philological sciences and involves not a universal system but a series of particular (even idiosyncratic) ones. rewritten ones that were published on pages facing translations of different types. on the part of the anthropologist. Both techniques have “scientific” roots. over time. For Boas. including the presentation of photos. Transliteration techniques were developed by these textual specialists to represent the written texts of another language. involves the author’s sub-disciplinary (scientific) identity. the footnote. and the aim of accurate renderings of “any” sequence of speech. by contrast.” by Franz Boas and others. or gloss. In the orientalist tradition.” In scholarly writing. the two techniques of transcription and transliteration often are closely associated with translations.1 It is the name also for the characteristic method subsequently employed by linguistic anthropologists for recording an oral text from an unwritten language. “heard” transcriptions of the fieldnote stage and the polished. What are the designs of such usages? To what ends are the techniques employed? This depends on the particular authority claimed by a given reporting text. transcription and transliteration figure as elements in historically specific forms of “ethnographic authority. 1986: 116–7. transliterated words or phrases usually appear following their English translation. 57–9). it is an activity of trained hearing. transcription and transliteration are elements in what was known as a book’s “scholarly apparatus. is a relatively new technique for anthropologists. In both genealogies there are histories of competing systems and. of course.” Parallel to these histories.Brinkley Messick In the usage of anthropologists. are the general and specific histories of the scientific refinement of scholarly translation. 1990: 51. crossed-out. but their genealogies go back to different sciences.g. to such tools as the International Phonetic Alphabet. transcription is the original technique (see Clifford 1983: 135–42.g. designed to represent particular languages. from the Muslim lunar calendar. Transliteration. which also have their own histories (e.

64–86) and the potential he identifies of unexpected losses as the older work. Nicholson Baker’s “Discards” article (The New Yorker. Increasingly. Brill) and IJMES. J. Where publishers will happily print translations they tend to resist publishing extended transcribed or transliterated texts. these and their accompanying translations usually are placed in an appendix. the Encyclopedia of Islam (Leiden: E. I turn from attempting a history of transcription. in most other systems it is now simply represented by a “j. which I do not know first hand. you have to know to turn to “masdjid. To consult the article on “mosque. those of the Library of Congress.” The “dj” here for the Arabic letter jim is an example of a transliteration found only in this encyclopedia.” giving masjid. or Persian or Turkish word. April 4. Typically such receptions are explicitly authorized by reference to entries in dictionaries.Notes on Transliteration research on the Middle East – are transliterated. the Library of Congress is carrying out the transliteration of foreign titles. New disciplinary engagements with societies with writing have led to new methods and new requirements concerning the reporting of written texts. especially with the streamlining of its transliteration that has occurred with the computerization of its catalogue entries. especially the hand annotations of generations of specialist librarians. the International Journal of Middle East Studies (Cambridge). and these have drawn critically on the long-established techniques of the orientalists and their successors in the fields of area studies. to a closer focus on transliteration. with the last now the standard in most quarters. and it is now rarely adopted as such. At the same time. work that had been central to the job descriptions of specialist librarians. 1994. Revealing now my own sub-disciplinary lineage. with which I have some experience. This has occurred partly in connection with the discipline’s historical and linguistic turns. The Encyclopedia of Islam system is the most venerable and also the quirkiest. One recalls. V There are three major systems of transliterating Arabic. They also usually occur in a formation of letters that is correct neither – 183 – . The Library of Congress system is on the march. however. its system cannot be forgotten by experts. for every one of the authoritative articles in nine massive volumes (and counting) of the second edition has a title that is a transliteration of an Arabic. is lost in the scientific advance of digitalization. In notes on transliteration it is common to find statements concerning certain words from the other language that have crossed over into full reception in English.” for example. however. pp. The rise of sophisticated transliteration among anthropologists interests me as an indicator of interdisciplinary movements toward the study of written texts.

without either italics or diacritics. in the case of North Africa and it was historians and literature specialists who worked with written Arabic. to the printing of Arabic texts in the West and. Messick 1993. then at least to spoken forms of culture within literate civilizations. At about the middle of the twentieth century and for a couple of decades thereafter.” With such understandings. the disciplinary identities of historian and anthropologist could be retrospectively glossed by statements such as. as if received in the English of the book in question. After this they appear unmarked. This was the era of the disciplinary distinction between spoken “field” languages and written “research” languages. ch. Thus we find Mecca preferred by scholars over the technically correct Makka. 6. It often is difficult to ascertain the register of Arabic being dealt with. in the case of Arabic. 1997). As a “field” language. anthropological field workers in the Middle East and North Africa exclusively used colloquial languages. colloquial Arabic posed some particular problems. may be linked to the reproduction of Arabic script in Western academic works. and no regular conventions exist for representing spoken forms of Arabic in written Arabic itself. later. as opposed to French. versus Koran. At first. however. The two basic features of the various spoken Arabic dialects were their variable distances from written forms (of several levels and types) and from each other. transcription was replaced by early attempts to employ systems of transliteration. In specialist texts. “the historian is given a text and the anthropologist has to construct one” (Asad 1986: 144). – 184 – . For anthropologists. the history of the advent of print in the Middle East (cf. anthropologists used transcriptions adapted from colloquial language dictionaries written by linguists. formally transliterated. He must first produce them” (Crapanzano 1986: 57). and the use of transcription thereafter mainly was reserved for. and. or “the ethnographer does not . Mid-century anthropology was a discipline devoted. for example. Beijing supplanting Peking is probably the same phenomenon in the reporting of Chinese.Brinkley Messick in transcription nor in transliteration. that is. if no longer exclusively to peoples without writing. Rapidly. Sometimes there is something of a specialist crusade in support of correctness: Muslim now has made solid inroads against Moslem. While the vowels are “incorrect” in such system terms they tend to make fuller use of the vowel structure of English. scientific-modern tradition of Margaret Mead (see the 1939–1940 exchange between Lowie and Mead in the American Anthropologist). the first among them the fact that Arabic was the original example language in the study of diglossia (Ferguson 1959). reported foreign words are often underlined and fully marked with diacritics. further back in time. . the anthropologist learned the spoken language during the first few months in the “field. In the post-Boasian. and Quran (or Qur’an). only when they first appear in the text. translate texts the way the translator does. Arabic had the status of a “field” language. likewise. . Such editorial conventions adopted by scholars and academic presses also involve a history that.

which is a basic ingredient in judging scholarly achievement. Gellner. as it always does in forewords to books on the Middle East. This becomes particularly evident when the subject of Arabic transliteration arises. native speakers and writers of Arabic who are becoming anthropologists also must learn proper transliteration lest their work be judged deficient in language terms. Gibb. few Englishmen can pronounce this letter correctly. and Calverly q_d_.Notes on Transliteration and marked. “No man could hope to draw together the various fields from which the materials of this book are derived if he were a scholar in any one of them. But there remain significant traces of anxieties and frustrations. Lawrence’s resistance to expert standardization been extinguished by the normalizing procedures of science? Yes and no. I begin with the mid-century remarks of Carlton S. I have tried to simplify as much as possible and have consequently left out the letter `Ain. Coon. A contemporary irony is that as the discipline becomes ever more demanding in terms of required language skills. and when anthropologists made a shift to the systems of the written language specialists. The presence or absence of a dot under the k will distinguish between the word for “heart” and that for “dog. Hitti spells it q_di. and Geertz. “Any transliteration of Arabic words leads to dispute.” (1951: v). and yet I cannot find complete agreement among them. Gibb k_d_. Coon begins. together with glimpses of distressed authorial personalities. including those of major disciplinary figures such as Evans-Pritchard. in his famous non-academic travel account Arabian Sands Wilfred Thesiger writes. He continues. and Calverly. In contemporary books. usually represented by `. their mistakes often betrayed their ignorance of those systems. VI Has the spirit of T. and also of written Arabic itself. E. three men whose erudition and integrity are of the highest order. most authors deploy their “note” mainly to report on the system adopted. Caravan: The Story of the Middle East. I have before me the handiwork of Hitti. to the majority of readers the frequent recurrence of this – 185 – . At this point the lay reader may exclaim. a specifically linguistic type of inquiry. To the myopic dotter of i’s and crosser of t’s. Take the word for judge. No one could feel less scholarly than I do.” Only a heartless dog would countenance such confusion. No transliteration system existed for any form of spoken Arabic. More in Lawrence’s vein. In any case. a dot under a consonant or a macron over a vowel are matters of utmost importance. ethnographer. physical anthropologist and generalist author of the classic introduction. “So what?” – but the lay reader does not review these books. The skill and precision with which a given system is used may be an index of knowledge of the foreign language. however.

or can easily discover. some Arabists have another anxiety which occasionally is made explicit. one as Najib. The Arabist will know. He adds. “I hope that experts will forgive me. but he states. “As names are variously pronounced and spelt in different dialects and areas.” Lancaster goes on to detail the extent to which he intends to override the relevant distinctions: “I have made no distinction between light and heavy consonants nor between long and short vowels. I have stuck to the conventional spelling.” He concludes. Ghain. writes. In common place names.” For their part. Experts say that this soft ghuttural sound is pronounced like the Parisian ‘r’. in his “Note on Transliteration” (1997. For the difficult letter. Lancaster sticks to Rwala. Roy P. a sort of silent growl: the ‘gh’ is the Arabic ghain. It may be recalled that his group’s tribal name had been rendered by T. two Arabic letters are collapsed into one mark: “The apostrophe (‘) is either a glottal stop or the Arabic `ain. E.Brinkley Messick unintelligible ` would be both confusing and irritating. as confusing as it may appear. E. and those who do not know the language would be little the wiser had I transliterated them differently. Gaffney.” A more recent reference to Lawrence and to explicit dangers right and left is found in Patrick D. however. Within the discipline. the other as Neguib. adds an issue rarely remarked upon by other authors: “In the case of personal names I recognize the right to orthographic self-presentation.” Like many others of his generation. I agree with T. Lawrence that the official system only helps those who know enough Arabic to need no help. The Sanusi of Cyrenaica (1949: iv). like Amman. Lawrence as Ruwalla and Rualla.” In the Preface to his classic ethnography (and innovative anthropological history). Gaffney adopts the IJMES system with some qualifications. (1959: xv). and that Lawrence also mischievously wished he had used Ruwala and Ruala as well. [1981]: xiii). how they are written in Arabic. E. This is a difference of three characters in the transcription of a word that only has four letters in the original Arabic. Here I follow the lead of Richard Mitchaell who.” In a following list Evans-Pritchard begins by – 186 – . I have used the conventional ‘gh’. “I apologize for cluttering the text with transliterated Arabic words. with regard to transliteration and related conventions. gives the surname of two brothers within the space of three lines. for example.” Likewise. E. Lawrence justifies in the barbed and witty ‘Preface’ to Seven Pillars of Wisdom. in his peerless study The Society of the Muslim Brothers. The Prophet’s Pulpit (1994: 10): “Finally. I have relied on commonsense. E. Evans-Pritchard distinguishes between his own work and that of the Arabist: “I have transliterated Arabic words in the simplest way. Mottahedeh (1980: x). a not-so-silent growl. I have attempted to steer a middle course between a pedantic obsession with consistency and a defiant abandonment to arbitrary phonetic approximations of the sort that T. consider the explicit reference by social anthropologist and non-Arabist William Lancaster in The Rwala Bedouin Today.

and I have given the first principle priority. 305– 6) describes two basic intentions: to insure the proper identification of places. possessing a bad ear and no linguistic training. “I take responsibility for the social and semantic information contained in this study. . partly because I am ill-equipped to satisfy the second. . in the Preface of which he – 187 – . In view of my incompetence in this field. Some linguistically trained scholars assure me that “Moa” is a phonetic impossibility. though others write it ‘Sidi Moh’. Arabic has a privileged position. I am partly reassured by the fact that some French administrators also. groups. and of course independently. Gellner writes.” Unlike the other cases thus far mentioned. and to give an “impression” of the “actual sound” of words and names. But anyone who wished to use this residual phonetic information for serious scholarly purposes would. Something of the hardheaded spirit of Lawrence is found in social scientist Gellner as well: With respect to words heard locally and not occurring significantly in previous records. “It is not always possible to satisfy both these principles at once. transcribed the name in the same way. has in Cyrenaica the value of a hard ‘g’ as in the English word ‘goat. In the eyes of both Muslims and Orientalists. which stands for the Arabic letter qaf. one way or another. of a shared life and religion.’ that ‘gh’.” An example of a once important system no longer adopted. and also of nonattention to the requirements of colloquial expression. is a guttural sound peculiar to Arabic. I fear.” he says. “I respect ordinary French transliterations.” Equally classic is Ernest Gellner’s Saints of the Atlas (1969). Sidi Moa is what I hear. the language in question for Gellner is Berber. an unwritten language usually rendered either in French or Arabic. he adds. “but only within reason. and that `. Gellner’s “Note on Transliteration” (pp.” He thus declines to use the conventional Arabic transliteration systems. Gellner concludes. Anyway. about the phonetic affinity of Berber sounds and Arabic letters. . the phonetic information has in any case been reduced to the minimum . rather than to allow myself to be persuaded retrospectively that I must have heard something other than what I remember having heard or recorded in my notes.Notes on Transliteration identifying a spoken-language phenomenon found among groups of Arabic speakers from Morocco to Iraq: “For the uninitiated it need only be said that the letter ‘q’. Thus. and I have not attempted to use this method. Bujra’s The Politics of Stratification (1971). which I write as ‘Sidi Moa’. has the value the Parisian gives to the ‘r’ in ‘Paris’. phonetically impossible or not. But the historical accident. which stands for the Arabic `ain. Unusual in its placement in the book’s back matter. etc. so to speak. there is a local name . “It is not only French which has a privileged position in the transcription of Moroccan Berber words. implies nothing. for instance.. . be misguided. is found in anthropologist Abdalla S. I have preferred to rely on my untrained and insensitive ear.” But. which stands for the Arabic letter ghain.

designed primarily for classical Arabic. Eickleman also privileges the spoken forms. even those which occur in written. it is more accurate than the system of the International Congress of Orientalsts (ICO). . Eickleman also worked in Morocco in the same period. are transliterated as they are pronounced in the spoken Arabic of the region in which I worked. (1979) state that “The problem of transcribing Arabic remains a vexed one” (pp.” It was considered equally important to avoid burdening the text and aggravating the reader.” He selects a linguist’s system: “I have preferred Richard S. but leave them unnamed for fear of implicating them in the errors that remain. while leaving the non-Arabist free from distracting technicalities. while the ordinary reader will not be distracted from the central issues with which we will be concerned” (p. specialists will easily be able to reconstitute the classical forms. Lawrence Rosen identifies the two envisioned poles of his readership.” Anthropologists had not yet become Arabists in their own right. . . Second. These anthropologists now find themselves in an awkward position located between the dictates of colloquial versus those of written Arabic and also between the schemes of competing academic disciplines. xi–xii). “The orthographies that exist are designed for classical Arabic. “Most Arabic words. except when their appearances are widely separated .” he writes. In any case. Arabic words are strictly transcribed in each essay only the first time they appear. xii). and a simple procedure had by this point become standard: “In order not to clutter the text with italics and diacritics.Brinkley Messick states that “All Arabic words in this book have been transliterated in accordance with the system used by the new edition (1960) of the Encyclopedia of Islam. and thus. One is caught between what one hears said and what one sees written. he writes.” A decade later. Geertz et al. First. Harrell’s system for transliterating Moroccan Arabic vowels (Harrell 1966: xiii–xix) for two reasons. “it is hoped that Arabic scholars will have no difficulty identifying words and comparing them to entries in the Wehr dictionary. “By this system. classical Arabic. Concerned about similar issues of readability. . The text would have been unnecessarily complicated had I followed separate conventions for the spoken and written variants . – a worse fate yet – between the passions of linguists and those of philologists. for the most part. exists only in literary form. and this distinction is marked in this “Note:” “We are indebted to a number of our Arabist colleagues for generous help in these matters. In “Note on Transliteration” in his Moroccan Islam (1976: xi–xii). Americans had begun to figure prominently in the anthropology of the Middle East and North Africa. Dale F. Harrell’s system contains the publishing advantage of eliminating the – 188 – . [T]his system should make it possible for the Arabist to determine what the word in fact ‘really’ is. but he was one of the first anthropologists also trained in written Arabic. which. In the “Transcription note” of their Meaning and Order in a Moroccan Society. The Encyclopedia of Islam or other standard reference works.” In the Preface to his 1984 Bargaining for Reality.

A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic.Notes on Transliteration macron for long vowels.” Unlike ethnographers such as Eickleman. Dresch. often play Mauss to the anthropologist’s Malinowski and spot. Unlike the common earlier practice of leaving as is transliterations that appear in material quoted from other Western scholars. In “Transliteration” in his Tribes. and a non-North African field location are involved in the work of Paul K.” Dresch’s students are also trained in written Arabic.” His overall system choice is to follow a simplified version of the transliteration used in the modern standard Arabic dictionary by the German scholar Hans Wehr. who privilege spoken forms. However. Dresch begins with modesty: I cannot claim to be an Arabist. an anthropologist with Arabic training and historical as well as ethnographic interests. In a remark reminiscent of Gellner. Those who are Arabists will soon spot that my knowledge of the language is essentially practical. I have usually given preference to the colloquial form of terms and phrases” (1985: xviii).” Like Gellner. Dresch says that “when in doubt” he has “reverted to classical voweling. long vowels in colloquial texts are – 189 – . Eickelman reaffirms his commitment to the spoken: “Any analysis that draws upon extensive interviews as well as written sources must necessarily cross the line between colloquial and written usage. and History in Yemen (1989). he adds that “one should certainly not use them for any fine-grained linguistic purposes.” A decade later. Government. Dresch admits. anthropologists who do not know Arabic should be aware that the language is remarkably regular and its different varieties are often closely connected – with the result that an Arabist can. Gellner would continue to differ and hold to his impossible Sidi Moa. I would not always recognize one now (but then neither would tribesmen). in practice. for instance. follows the IJMES system for literary Arabic and A Dictionary of Egyptian Arabic (1986) for the colloquial. A slightly different intellectual genealogy. (xxviii–xxix) As a potential “Malinowski” figure. Dresch imposes his own system on these reported texts as well: “Where I quote from other people’s translations I have modified their transliteration to conform with the scheme used here. Dresch offers lengthy passages of transliterated and translated tribal poetry in appendices. with some modifications: “consonants that conform to literary pronunciation are rendered according to IJMES guidelines. without ever going there. on the complex genre of film screenplays among other texts. however. although I was taught when I started what a diptote is. in his Knowledge and Power in Morocco. (1976). Walter Armbrust’s “Note on Transliteration” in Mass Culture and Modernism in Egypt (1996: xi). that one has misunderstood what one heard. and there are translations from written Arabic histories scattered throughout the book. “I do not have a trained ear.” But he maintains that “my simplified and classicizing versions probably do not obscure all that much.

i.Brinkley Messick marked with a macron as in IJMES rather than the doubled letter used in Badawi and Hinds. Baber Johansen’s historical study of early legal texts. . and so on.” Shyrock uses the standard IJMES system. presents “English transliterations of the Arabic originals. . Veiled Sentiments (1986: xv–xix). Johansen first introduces his list of letter equivalents: “The following signs are used in the transliteration of Arabic letters: .” Here.”. I have not corrected the occasional departure from standard grammar but have transcribed the text verbatim. . In what he calls “Notes on Transcription” (x). “Transliterations of `Abbadi and `Adwani Poems” (329– 339). This innovation (in anthropological monographs) and others likely to come are facilitated by the availability of foreign-language word-processing programs. . Martha Mundy is another Arabist-anthropologist who.” Andrew Shryock’s Nationalism and the Genealogical Imagination (1997). The Islamic Law on Land Tax and Rent (1988). His Appendix A. .” The combination of classical Arabic texts and phonetic representation is now found in the work of (non-anthropological) Arabists. reproduces the phonetic changes that occur when sentences are spoken. Mundy comments.” In an unusual step. A certain delight in discoveries of “mistakes” and the associated task of correcting extant manuscript versions with the aim of producing a newly authoritative text were hallmarks of Orientalist philology. provides an interesting example. In an appendix.” she adopts the IJMES system. . Likewise. works on tribal Yemen. is on oral Bedouin histories and poems and their conversion into written history. the linguistic technique for the reporting of spoken texts becomes the chosen technique for the vocalization of – 190 – . Mundy takes a significant step beyond transliteration by including a printed Arabic text. but as in many other locales. in their case. It will be complained by language specialists. local documents or vernacular poetry. however.e. that is. In her Domestic Government. Whole sentences are transcribed. of giving it a “reading. He then explains his different uses for transliteration and transcription. without attempting a phonetic transcription. however. that in printing an Arabic text in this manner she skirts the scholarly task of “voweling” the Arabic. here again “the reader is warned that the Balga Bedouin pronounce q as g. for fragments versus phonetic wholes: “Book titles. that in the case of vernacular poetry. single words and half sentences are simply transliterated. when citing from unpublished manuscripts. like Dresch. I have adopted transliteration similar to that current for classical Arabic. in a “Note on Anthropological Terms and Arabic Transliteration. (1995: xii) Mundy’s procedures are to be distinguished from those of scholars who once controlled the analyses of written Arabic texts. And the transcription. he also refers readers to “A Note on Transcription” in Lila Abu-Lughod. the transliteration reproduces the Arabic letters and not their phonetic value.

For Modern Standard Arabic. Uvular. she follows the specialist system of Zeitschrift fur arabische Linguistik. “my ear is tuned to the dialects of Beni Mellal and Marrakech and my transliterations reflect this. her Appendix 1. “Arabic words that have a common English form (e. which are treated as if spoken. Arabist Johansen’s previously mentioned “transcriptions” of whole written texts. Flap. for the emphatic consonants. mufti. In “Notes on Transcription” in Niloofar Haeri’s The Sociolinguistic Market of Cairo (1996: vi) we find an example of an anthropological linguist who studies language variation.” She refers to dialectical language studies by Harrell (1962) and now Heath (1987). Palatal.” Using technical terms only one or two of which ever appear among anthropological transliterators. In her extensive reporting of spoken texts Kapchan explains. the American Library Association–Library of Congress System.” by contrast. a back-matter item that also has become de rigueur. Susan Slymovics’ The Object of Memory (1998) also uses both terms. the two terms sometimes may be used interchangeably. Lateral. Dental.Notes on Transliteration written texts. a strict sense use of transcription is retained among some linguistic anthropologists together with a set of conventional signs used by them alone. and the letter `ayn by the sign instead of the transliterator’s raised “c” or the “ ` ” of my keyboard. capital letters replace the dots under letters used in transliteration systems. Haeri places “Labial. and also provides a Glossary. Johansen concludes. A very different variety of linguistic anthropology is exemplified by work on vernacular Yemeni poetry by Arabistanthropologist Steven Caton. Such scholars use a system of formal transcription. Pharyngeal and Glottal” along one axis and “Stop. she must contend with both “CA” (Classical Arabic) and a colloquial language.g. Medina. Deborah Kapchan’s note also concerns “Transcription and Transliteration” (1996: xi–xii). Iraq) are neither transliterated nor transcribed. Nasal. Even the sub-disciplinary linguistic folks segment into subgroups whose identities are marked by their adopted systems. as just seen. by contrast. In the resulting transcription system. In an unusual location in the back matter.” The chart she provides “is adapted from Broselow (1976) The Phonology of Egyptian Arabic. she follows a different system from those discussed. Although. here “MA” (Moroccan Arabic). and exceptions are provided within the usual phonetic brackets.” In her Gender on the Market. Like many others now. For “colloquial Palestinian Arabic dialect. and Glide” along the other. the Arabic consonant commonly transliterated as “sh” is rendered as “š” with an inverted circumflex. use the conventional signs of transliteration. Spirant. Also in this system. “Notes on Transliteration and Transcription” (211–13) treats both Hebrew and Arabic. “Most transcriptions in this study are attempts at phonemic representation. Haeri states. “kh” as “x. whose “Peaks of Yemen I Summon” contains “A Note – 191 – .” “gh” as . Velar.

There is a debate about the degree to which he was successful.” He also provides a “detailed description of Yemeni Arabic (specifically tribal) phonology” in his Appendix A. either stand-alone proper – 192 – . her text reports spoken Arabic.” Unlike the practice adopted by later Arabist-anthropologists.” Stefania Pandolfo’s “Note on Transcription” in her Impasse of the Angels (1997: ix–xi) deals with the special case of a “multilingual environment” of Berber and Arabic.” Meeker has “changed and simplified Musil’s script so that the reader with some knowledge of Arabic might easily recognize Rwala cognates. mainly within a single discipline. however. “Musil devised a system of recording Rwala dialect which he hoped would accurately indicate its sound values in a Western script. because this is a study of an Arabic dialect and not the literary language.Brinkley Messick on Transcription” (1990: xv). attempting to convey the diversity and distinctive character of the vernacular idioms. However. This is an anthropology of colloquial poetry – once again involving the Arabian tribe known as the Rwala (Ruwalla. the system actually intended is one of transliteration. Ruwala. Rualla. His use of the term “transcription” is appropriate for a linguistic inquiry. minor dimensions or intermediate systems of the larger “trans” relation between languages. she points out (illustrating her version transliteration in the process) that “Written Arabic does not have vowels but only harakat. For the sake of readability I have chosen not to use a phonetic transcription. Thus Caton writes. The cases examined involve the representation of Arabic in English. “In the transcription of speech I have tried to follow as much as possible the actual pronunciation of words. while keeping the grammar visible and the syntax understandable. Ruala) – but it is based on the historical corpus of research by Alois Musil (1928). but in contrast to the sort of work represented by Haeri. Mainly. but one based on the regular English alphabet. “movements.” In an argument also found in the work of Timothy Mitchell (1988: 19). together with some examples from Arabists and travelers. The outcome is necessarily a compromise. I have had to introduce certain changes. The usages in question are of two basic types. “The transcription system of the International Journal of Middle East Studies is used here. Meeker states that “quotes from authors other than Musil have often retained their methods of transliterating Arabic.” VII My “notes” here – I hope they compensate for the absence of one in my 1993 book (with some interesting company) – have explored transliteration and transcription. Michael Meeker’s “Note on Transliteration and Translation” in his Literature and Violence in North Arabia (1979: xiv) is a special case.” but “Musil’s vowelizations of the Rwala dialect have been preserved since he is virtually the sole authority on this matter.

in the case of Middle East studies. for renderings in English. Or at least that is the way it was.Notes on Transliteration names or terms. The choices made and the skills demonstrated bear on our assessments of the subtlety and accuracy of the anthropological inquiry in question. providing indices not only of disciplinary identities but also of the detailed bases of interpretations. who “tried to quote – 193 – . provides us an unusual glimpse into the behind-the-scenes of publishing. however. the florid and revealing “Note on Transliteration” seems to have gone the way of the old-fashioned polemical footnote. The earlier sensitivity of this pretextual site may itself have been linked to a transitional moment in the field. Directly or indirectly. in journals such as IJMES. Differing registers of Arabic complexly relate to social relations and. figure centrally in the making of an account. Note 1. Quibbles or full-blown criticisms of an author’s transliterations are not uncommon in professional reviews.” With their bursts of spleen. the witticisms and the anxieties alike mostly replaced by the advance of the professional apparatus. transliterations and transcriptions interact with translations. expert readers’ comments conveyed to the author by the publisher could leave scars apparent in the vexed tone of the published “note.” Figuring among the unrecorded “pretexts” of a published book. before the outing of the “self” and the associated venting in the discipline’s “reflexive” turn. In the early days. in passages in English which translate Arabic. The voice of the “note” seems quieter now. but I will not detain you with pedantic examples.” many “notes” make reference to debates and disputes about transliteration. admissions of weakness. Transliterations or transcriptions usually concern key concepts. first were coming to terms with the complexities of Arabic as both a spoken and a written language. false pleas for forgiveness. other than in such “notes. the back-and-forth between the publisher and the author concerning “transliterations. some “notes” may be read as the records of a prior ordeal.” Now. and especially from the “experts. incisive formulations or significant statements which. or as separate texts located in an appendix. They occur in passages involving a surrounding discussion in English. As forbearance is sought from readers. by contrast. when anthropologists. In a famous methodological introduction he describes his advance from the ethnographers of the former Cambridge school.. the personality of the anthropologist found few textual channels for expression. etc. The “Preface” to Seven Pillars of Wisdom. or words and phrases accompanied by a translation or gloss. represent a special challenge involving a range of technical options. Malinowski (1961[1922]: 23–4) set the pattern for the British school of social anthropology. in citation.

1992. Veiled Sentiments. Oxford: Oxford University Press. C. pp. He reports that his initial efforts to translate into English gave way to his writing directly in Kiriwinian: “at last. – 194 – . Moroccan Islam. Caravan. Abdalla S. 1990. 1986. 1986. 1974. Berkeley: University of California Press. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Derrida. 1986. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1951. 1983. 1989.” In Writing Culture. J. “On Ethnographic Authority.” References Abu-Lughod. pp. Dresch. “Hermes’ Dilemma: The Masking of Subversion in Ethnographic Description. Talal. New York: Henry Holt.” In Writing Culture. Austin: University of Texas Press. 1971. Clifford and G. Dale F. —— “Notes on (Field)notes. and History in Yemen. Asad. Clifford and G. Bakhtin. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Carlton S. pp. Caton.). J. Government.” In Fieldnotes. Of Grammatology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Spivak. “The Concept of Cultural Translation in British Social Anthropology. 141–64. Armburst. Clifford and G. Berkeley: University of California Press.). to his own method which was based on far more extensive competence in the native language. 98–121. 51– 76. pp. 1986. 1990. 1986. 118– 4. M. Austin: University of Texas Press. Burja. 1976. Marcus. G.” Over time this led to the production of what he called a “corpus inscriptionum Kiriwiniensium. Lila. pp. Berkeley: University of California Press.). Ithaca: Cornell University Press.” In Writing Culture. Sanjek (ed. Steven.” he states. Cairo: Badawi and Hinds. Berkeley: University of California Press. “I found myself writing exclusively in that language. Marcus (eds. (eds. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Paul K. James. The Order of Texts. J. 47–70. Vincent. Crapanzano. Walter. —— “On Ethnographic Allegory. 1986. Coon. Mass Culture and Modernism in Egypt. Chartier. Peaks of Yemen I Summon. Roger. Marcus (eds. 1996. M. Clifford.Brinkley Messick verbatim statements of crucial importance” and who also reported the “termini technici” of native usage. Trans. Speech Genres & Other Essays. Tribes. The Politics of Stratification. Jacques.” Representations 1(2). R.). Eickleman. The Stort of the Middle East. A Dictionary of Egyptian Arabic.

Colonizing Egypt. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 1997. New York: Crane. Patrick D. London: Kegan Paul.” Word 15. Ferguson. New York: E.” Culture and History 16 (Copenhagen).C. J. C. Lawrence. A Short Reference Grammar of Moroccan Arabic. Mundy. Washington. 1996. D. Gellner. Haeri. The Sociolinguistic Market of Cairo. Seven Pillars of Wisdom. E. 1959. Dutton. Berkeley: University of California Press. Meaning and Order in a Moroccan Society. 1949. Messick. pp. Gaffney. Boyarin (ed. ——. The Sanusi of Cyrenaica. Roy. The Islamic Law on Land Tax and Rent. The Manners and Customs of the Rwala Bedouin. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.. Princeton: Princeton University Press. P. 1988. 1994. The Prophet’s Pulpit. and L. 325–40. MA: Harvard University Press. The Footnote: A Curious History. 1987. Rosen. 80–97. “Diglossia. Martha.” In The Ethnography of Reading. pp.). Lancaster. 1992. 1980. S. Meeker. Loyalty and Leadership in an Early Islamic Society. Albany: State University of New York Press. 1988. Berkeley: University of California Press. “Note on Transliteration”. Niloofar. Charles. London: Croom Helm. Saints of the Atlas. Geertz. Michael. Berkeley: University of California Press. Mottahedeh. Geertz. In The Rwala Bedouin Today. 1928. Heath. 1935. Alois. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Johansen. 1985. London: I. pp. Tauris. Fabian. Anthony. 1995. Kapchan. Richard. 1997 [1981]. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. H. Harrall. Mitchell. 1979. New York: Anchor. Deborah. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Literature and Violence in North Arabia. 1969. Malinowski.Notes on Transliteration —— Knowledge and Power in Morocco. Baber. Evans-Pritchard. Domestic Government. T. 1979. B. Timothy. Gender on the Market: Moroccan Women and the Revoicing of Tradition. Musil. Grafton. Cambridge.: Georgetown University Press. 158–176. E. “Keep Listening: Ethnography and Reading. P. 1997. 1962. Prospect Heights. Bronislaw. Jeffery. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1961 [1922]. 1996. The Calligraphic State. William. “On the Question of Lithography. Ablaut and Ambiguity: Phonology of a Moroccan Arabic Dialect. – 195 – . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. E. IL: Waveland. Johannes. Argonauts of the Western Pacific. Brinkley. 1993. Ernest.

Lawrence. 1998. Berkeley: University of California Press. Thesiger. Impasse of the Angels. 1997. Wehr. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. 1984. 1997. Hans. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Bargaining for Reality. Nationalism and the Genealogical Imagination. 3d ed. The Object of Memory. Shryock. Arabian Sands. Slymovics. Wilfred. New York: Dutton. 1976. Susan. Stefania. Ithaca: Spoken Language Services. Andrew. Rosen.Brinkley Messick Pandolfo. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. – 196 – . 1959. A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic.

“but because he did not understand what he was interpreting. but in Túmbez. and was totally ignorant of the Apostles’ creed.–8– The Ethnographer as Pontifex Benson Saler Incident at Cajamarca Some of the difficulties attendant on understanding and then translating religious concepts are illustrated by an incident that occurred during the Spanish conquest of the Inka Empire. Though baptized. He had also learnt Spanish without a teacher. young – for he was scarcely twenty-two – and as little versed in the general language of the Incas as in Spanish.1 Garcilaso. adding the numbers in order to make himself understood. . or annual records in knots. but merely by hearing the Spaniards speak. The first verbal exchanges between the Spaniards and the Inka ruler Atahuallpa were mediated by an interpreter named Felipe. he claims. kept at Cajamarca. and spoke it like a parrot” (Vega 1966: 682). He did so not out of malice. could not express it [the doctrine of the Trinity] in any other way. does not blame him entirely for mistranslating Fray Vicente’s speech. not in Cuzco. nicknamed “El Inka. Felipe translated poorly from one language to the other. Felipe mangled the translation. and the words he heard most often were those used by the ordinary soldiers . “Instead of God three in one. while clearly no admirer of Felipe. . (Vega 1966: 682) As might be expected. he had received no instruction in the Christian religion and knew nothing about Christ our Lord. a man of very plebeian origin.” Felipe was a native of the island of Puna. Among other things. Felipe. for there are no words or phrases in the Peruvian language for many of the concepts of the Christian religion. According to the chronicler. This is shown by the tradition of the quipus. the chronicler tells us. Garcilaso de la Vega. from Indians who speak barbarously and corruptly as foreigners. Thus when Fray Vicente de Valverde addressed a long and uncompromising speech to Atahuallpa in which he outlined the Christian faith and demanded the Inka’s submission to the Pope and to the Emperor. He had in fact learned the language of the Incas. where the event occurred” (Vega 1966: 682). – 197 – . he said God three and one make four. we have already explained that to all the Indians but the natives of Cuzco this is a foreign language.

so that they can say what they want and the Indians can understand the sermons that are preached to them. adapting them to their own ways of speech. (1966: 682) I return eventually to Garcilaso’s remarks about how the doctrines of Christianity may be “adequately” conveyed to Peruvian Indians. when the Spanish interpreters of these times wish to express these ideas adequately. thoughtful theologians generally evaluate their theological options in light of this consideration: what may be the likely consequences – indeed. Difficulties in understanding and conveying the doctrine of the Trinity are traceable in part to a major factor affecting the comprehension and translation of many religious ideas: the matter of their partial counter-intuitivity. the potential harm – of any doctrine for the possibilities of human salvation? (Placher 1983: 69) The second. and similar words. The first we may term anthropocentric pragmatism. adapting and amending a theoretical construct advanced by Brian K. however. Two are especially relevant here. beginning with efforts to render Greek formulations of it into Latin. they commonly recognize certain constraints on their theologies. Here. faith. The Indians of today do this with great elegance. I go on from there to consider some recent theoretical claims about the counter-intuitive aspects of religious ideas. Holy Spirit. and certain of the implications of such claims for translation. The doctrine of the Trinity. They nevertheless proclaim it to be central to their faith and of crucial significance for their salvation. in their language. sacraments. thus helping the Spaniards to find the words that are lacking.” Smith maintains that a religion is to be identified by the repeated references or returns. These are totally unknown to the gentiles. moreover. I want to consider one particular doctrine. But even well-schooled and greatly respected Christian theologians have confessed to difficulties in understanding the doctrine of the Trinity. that of the Trinity. Felipe added three Gods and one God and came up with four. I explore that point by first describing certain problems posed by theologians respecting the doctrine of the Trinity. at least partly. grace. The Doctrine of the Trinity Despite a fair amount of heterogeneity in opinion among Christian theologians. it seems. if – 198 – . For this reason. can be called the principle of “canonical reflexivity. and the words have never existed. and still do not exist [twenty-nine years later]. has proven difficult to translate from one language to another. out of profound ignorance.Benson Saler such as Trinity. or use with great care suitably dignified expressions in the old language or else lay hands on the many words the cultured and scholarly Indians have taken from Spanish and introduced into their own languages. Church. they have to seek new words or phrases. Smith (1987). That is.

The Council of Nicaea (AD 325) was called by the Emperor Constantine largely to settle the issue of whether the Son is co-eternal with the Father or whether. he is canonically distinguished from the Heavenly Father (e. What. for unlike creatures he was not begotten at some point in time. ‘same’ + ousios. If he had changed once. by eventual consensus. if Jesus were a creature. While the Third Person (The Holy Spirit) was discussed. proved to be of major divisive significance within Christendom. are ignorant of what is contained in the Vedas. whether written or oral. even if they do not explicitly discuss its substance.) By resting religion on this one criterion. and doing so betokens change. At the same time. there were divisions among both Greek – 199 – . Much of the early argument in the developing Church focused on the relationship of the Second Person of the Trinity (the Son) to the First (God the Father). While the translation of this Greek term – homo. however. ‘substance’ – by Latinspeaking churchmen was generally in harmony with the literal meaning assigned to it by their Greek-speaking colleagues. The Council concluded that the Son is co-eternal with the Father and that he is “begotten not made. that its adherents make to some canon.” This matter of being homoousios proved to be theologically problematic. from nothing to something.g. as Augustine of Hippo and the Western Church proclaimed. as Arius claimed. he would have come into existence at some time. in proclaiming the Son to be “true God from true God.” his begetting. These two principles relate to the development of the doctrine of the Trinity. like a creature. as the Eastern Church maintained. or only from the Father. for instance. what other considerations might that implicate? Thus. for example. it received less polemical attention in the first few centuries – albeit argument over whether the Spirit “proceeds” both from the Father “and from the Son” (“filioque”).The Ethnographer as Pontifex only formulaic. “the Father is greater than I” [John 14:28]). I acknowledge that it is often important in religions. (Many Hindus. and the positive references that people make to it are definitive of their faith or perspective. The canon is invested with authority. the Council. Smith is forced to identify “Marxism” and “Freudianism” as religions. he had come into existence at some time. then. Further. And while I do not hold that canonical reflexivity is either necessary or sufficient for identifying religion. is Jesus? And how is he related to the Father? And if human salvation comes through Jesus Christ.” also declared him to be “of the same substance (homoousios) as the Father. might he not change again? And dare we entrust human salvation to a creature capable of change (Placher 1983)? These and other considerations entered into the development of the doctrine of the Triune God. The New Testament depicts Jesus Christ as more than a man. but their regard for the chanting of those works in Sanskrit is important to their identity as Hindus. I criticize him elsewhere for doing so (Saler 2000 [1993]). being an eternal begetting.

a leading fourth-century theologian.” Eventually. Gregory of Nyssa. and one substantia. of a “similar substance” rather than of the same substance. Basil the Great. unlike any other three persons. Further. non-synonymous senses. They maintained that the Father.” “persons”). but they are three hypostaseis (“individuals. for instance. they called attention to the fact that they were using the terms ousia and hypostasis in special. where the terms ousia and hypostasis were sometimes employed as synonyms for “substance.Benson Saler and Latin speakers as to the theological interpretation of the term. of course. the Three Persons of the same divine ousia are the only form that ousia has ever taken or could ever take (Placher 1983: 78).” as in some of the writings of Athanasius (Placher 1983: 78). Indeed. . for. Alan Kolp (1975: 101) suggests that “Without noting it the Arian controversy is a struggle over the correct use of Platonic philosophical categories.” The debate at Nicaea between those who inclined to his opinion and Athanasius and his supporters was influenced significantly by Greek philosophy. however. Since the time of Tertullian. Unfortunately. But Athanasius. And it raised problems for translation into Latin. Some of the theologians who supported the idea of the same divine stuff (oak in general) rather than the very same stuff (the same oak tree) eventually endorsed the claim that the Son is homoiousios with the Father. who creatively reformulated certain Greek metaphysical categories. Some churchmen at the Council apparently understood “the same substance” to mean of the same divine stuff. And. which would be analogous to saying that our two pieces of oak furniture are cut from the very same oak tree (adapted from Placher 1983). so horrified Latin-speaking Christians read Greek references to “three hypostaseis” as meaning “three substantiae. Latin-speaking Christians had made a parallel distinction between three personae . things were more or less sorted out by those who took the trouble to acquaint themselves with the peculiarities of usage in Cappadocian theological Greek and the problems encountered in translating from that discourse to Latin. which would be somewhat like saying that two pieces of oak furniture are of the same substance because they are both made of oak wood. and in case anyone was not aware of it. substantia is the literal Latin translation of hypostasis (both words mean “that which stands under”). They declared. and Holy Spirit are all of one ousia.” The Athanasian homoousios theology was eventually strengthened by the Cappadocian Fathers. one “substance”. This terminology immediately raised problems in Greek. – 200 – . The Cappadocian Fathers assisted in clarifying understandings by extended explications. . insisted that the term means the very same substance. Arius held that “There was a time when the Son was not. that while the Three Persons are each distinct. Son. as Placher (1983: 78–79) points out. and Gregory of Nazianzus. they always act in perfect harmony and concert.

common from abstraction. Thomas declares. Newman is concerned with what is involved in apprehending. and are common terms. IV. that it can be proportional to evidence. 1:5). do or do not stand for things. Newman denies it. inferring. In the first of his two summas. then they are singular terms. “The terms of a proposition. and assenting to propositions. are units.The Ethnographer as Pontifex Difficulties in Comprehending the Doctrine of the Trinity Despite the attempts at clarification described above. And assent is the mind’s acceptance of the truth of a proposition. that revealed truths – he supplies two examples. The first is by the unaided exercise of human reason and the third is by the post-mortem attainment of the Beatific Vision. as something made clear to be seen. Thomas Aquinas takes that position. declare it to be beyond the powers of human comprehension. at least in this life. the Incarnation and the Trinity – are given to us “not. but not assent. Yet they are fundamental facts of reality and of crucial importance for the possibility of human salvation. He characterizes apprehension as the mind’s imposition of sense on the predicate of a proposition. But if they do not stand for things they must stand for notions. impossible to understand. by implication. The apprehension of the former I call real. (1985: 22) – 201 – . Singular nouns come from experience. and of the latter notional. however. Assent. the “angelic doctor” teaches. however. wherein the human mind will be elevated to more powerful understandings. 1). If they do. but as something spoken in words to be believed” (SCG IV. Inference is the relating of a proposition to others as a conclusion. indeed. While John Locke (1959 [1689]) holds that assent is conditional. the difficulty of translating it) is given by John Henry Newman in his An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent (1985 [1889. they are. is by revelation from God. A more contemporary consideration of the difficulty of understanding the doctrine of the Trinity (and thus. many theologians (to say nothing of ordinary Christians) deem the doctrine of the Trinity exceedingly difficult to understand. he says. for all things that are. one of the greatest theologians in Christendom maintains that his religion turns on certain truths that the faithful must accept but cannot fully fathom. The truths of the Incarnation and Trinity. are not merely difficult to understand. and others as well. 1870]). Chapt. at least in this life. Thomas writes that there are three ways for humans to obtain a knowledge of things divine. In short. The second. He allows that inference may be conditional. Some. which is the one that most directly concerns us here. does not admit of degrees (1985: 32).” Newman writes. in a profound sense. the Summa contra gentiles (Bk. Newman’s Grammar is a major nineteenth-century work dealing with the epistemology of belief.

“as regards catechisms and theological treatises. because the object is more powerful. But if the nine propositions are taken together as a “systematized whole. the Son. . and ever has been. 2. says Newman. – 202 – . Newman says. The Son is not the Holy Ghost. which is addressed far more to the imagination and affection than to the intellect” (1985: 90). and in such addresses.” Newman informs us. canon after canon. and are addressed to the intellect. however. 8. Further. he relates. In the case of notional propositions. are these: 1. “the mysteriousness of the doctrine is almost uniformly insisted on” (1985: 91). an affirmation that is beyond our full comprehension and that is to be accepted on faith. of the nature of prayers. and ever has been. The dogma of the Trinity.” And in them. But the “custom is otherwise. taken separately. therefore so is the apprehension of it” (1985: 31). “the terms stand for things external to us” (1985: 13) insofar as there are impressions of those things in the imagination. I focus instead on the applications that Newman makes of his own distinction to what his Church teaches about the Trinity.Benson Saler In the case of real propositions. consists of nine propositions. for the devout can image each by a lively act of the imagination. There are Three who give testimony in heaven. From the Father and Son is.” though Popes and Councils “have found it their duty to insist afresh upon the dogma” (1985: 91). it is not called a mystery in “Confession after confession. Each of the nine. These belong to particular ages and places. and the Holy Spirit. varies in strength because. can be the object of real assent.” The apprehension of a proposition. Nor is it termed a mystery in the Apostles’. . according to Newman. and Athanasian Creeds. The Son is the One Eternal Personal God. to speak of intellectual difficulties would be out of place” (1985: 90). produces a theological mystery – that is. the Spirit. 4. “which have a place in the Ritual” and are “devotional acts . 5.” that combination “is the object of notional assent” (1985: 91). Newman’s distinction between “real” and “notional” beliefs resembles to some extent distinctions that certain contemporary philosophers draw between “de re” and “de dicto” beliefs (see for example Woodfield 1982: v–xi). That is. . in contrast. 9. The Spirit is the One Eternal Personal God. The Father is the One Eternal Personal God. The Father is not the Son. the mind is directed to its own creations rather than to “things. Rather than digress to sketch the similarities (and differences). The Word or Son. the Father. in Newman’s words. 7. . 6. addressed to God. moreover. From the Father is. Newman remarks that the Holy Trinity in Unity “is never spoken of as a Mystery in the sacred book. Nicaean. . (1985: 91) Combining the nine into a whole. 3. The Holy Ghost is not the Father. “what is concrete exerts a force and makes an impression on the mind which nothing abstract can rival. The nine propositions. that is.

or. personhood.The Ethnographer as Pontifex The Counter-intuitive While numbers of Christians maintain that the Trinity is a divine mystery revealed to finite human minds by God. The unfolding doctrine of the Trinity. Closely related to that problem is the problem of reconciling the individuation of the Three Persons of the Trinity with their eternal and perfect unity in thought and action. but to subject to number in regard to His own intrinsic characteristics. for that matter. and that the theologians whose doctrines about it became mainstream were guided by the Holy Spirit. attempted to do so in ways that would not challenge scriptural authority or jeopardize the possibility of human salvation. it may be unmeaning. it violates our intuitions about living things. Thus even when the believer accepts it on authority that three individual divine Persons always act in complete agreement and concert. identity. there are others. which presented Jesus as more than a man yet as distinct from God the Father. in secular perspective. the doctrine of the Trinity – the doctrine that the one true living God who created all else consists of three eternal Persons of the same substance who always act in perfect concert – is difficult to comprehend because it violates several of our work-a-day intuitions and expectations about numbers. opines that in speculating about “the Supreme Being. such as the problem of understanding (let alone translating) the concept of “eternal begetting. – 203 – . moreover. to apply arithmetical notions to Him may be as unphilosophical as it is profane” (1985: 39). to those of us non-believers who have logged many hours in attendance at department meetings? In addition to the above problems. not only to number with other beings. a secular intellectual history of the doctrine takes a different tack. as suggested earlier. say. I think. That is. A major problem is reconciling the Three with the One and the One with the Three. ordinary uses of numbers in the West and associated intuitions about numeration in our society. are they entirely harmonious with the somewhat different understandings of Westerners of yesteryear. was in large measure the unfolding of efforts to resolve that tension or paradox. The explications that Christian theologians furnish respecting the individuation of the three Persons.” In short. given the fan of understandings and hopes that motivated and constrained those efforts. do not fully jibe with the understandings that many contemporary Westerners entertain about the nature of individualism. who had difficulties with his brother. Newman. Numbers of theologians. was a certain tension or paradox in the canonical texts. Conventional Christian theological applications of those numbers to the Godhead contravene present-day. . for example. . and procreation – and. A major impetus to that development. In both cases. cognizant of that circumstance. experience and folk belief-desire psychology testify that individuals often disagree in significant ways and pursue different ends. how might he or she explain it meaningfully to others – to Atahuallpa. . more broadly. Nor.

their harmony with expectations supported by ordinary – 204 – . Persons. so to speak. (1994: 35) Indeed. things fly in the air instead of falling to the ground. The Naturalness of Religious Ideas: A Cognitive Theory of Religion. This. Such. But it may well be so salient and consistent in the configuration and transmission of religious ideas as to mark them off from other ideas. aging and death do not affect certain beings. the “living God” of mainstream Christianity. more broadly.Benson Saler The Persons of the Trinity. associated with modern science. a constellation of assumptions likely to be found. would not be attention demanding. are physical objects and therefore visible.g. “Religious notions would not be interesting. For instance. not only do religious representations violate intuitive expectations.” “unchangeable. the sorts of religious ideas that will be transmitted from one generation to the next – the religious ideas that will prove successful in the competition. and intentionality are individuated. but. As Boyer sees it. according to Boyer. “perfect in knowledge. among ideas for places in human memory – are those that strike an optimal cognitive balance between the intuitive and the counter-intuitive (1994: 121). does not mean that there is nothing intuitive or ordinary about religious ideas. according to Pascal Boyer (1994). “is lustful. as exemplars of living things. either individually or collectively. about living things. Their identity. for example. if they complied with intuitions about ordinary events and states” (1994: 48). especially insofar as modern science transcends and subverts naive realism. however.g. that structures expectations.” “one in understanding and purpose”) are not usually applied to human persons. more or less.” They violate a constellation of ontological assumptions – a constellation of assumptions in Western societies and. God is “wise” not in the same way that Allen Greenspan is “wise. are not merely different sorts of “person. and so on.” “is malleable”) are doctrinally declared to be inapplicable to the Persons of the Trinity.” it is sometimes claimed that predicate terms applied to divinity do not mean the same things that they mean when applied to human persons: that. for instance. And some of the predicate terms that are applied to the Persons of the Trinity (e. where he observes that Religious representations typically comprise claims or statements that violate people’s ideas of what commonly takes place in their environment. at any rate. and especially among those who champion “negative theology. the counter-intuitive plays important roles in human life. some entities are described as invisible.” but in a special way applicable only to God. It is. sentience. Their intuitiveness. among people in other societies – about persons and. Predicates that might well apply to individual persons (e. intangible yet capable of mechanical action on physical objects. Now.” “is contentious. yet located in space. is one of the arguments of Pascal Boyer in his complex book. And it is often invoked to good effect in science fiction (Disch 1998). Further.

domainspecific ontologies. for instance. their contents are likely to be underdetermined by that process. Boyer argues that there are universal features (following Needham 1972. about witches in two societies may show appreciable conceptual overlap. tend to distinguish between living things and artifacts and they develop similar general understandings of what is normal for each.” If the mix is right. in our attentions to the world. . while religious ideas are subject to selective pressures in the transmission process. Further. and a scrupulous translator will have to take pains to avoid obscuring important differences in relevant contexts. I fully agree with that position.” But they also constrain the acceptability of counterintuitive claims. He takes pains to point out. Among other things. beyond our minimal recognition that in many human groups there are ideas “concerning non-observable. the similarities between religious ideas are a matter of family resemblance rather than universal features” (1994: 5). say. 2000). that he is not postulating substantive universals in religious ideas (1994: 5). their seeming intuitive unnaturalness “to the subjects who hold them” (1994: 3). they are more likely to be remembered and more likely to be transmitted to the next generation than ideas that are either unexceptional or entirely counter-intuitive. He aspires to explain both by working toward a complex theory of the cognitive foundations of religious ideas. Boyer argues. . But their violation of such expectations.” Boyer (1994: 121) writes. The processes that we call socialization and enculturation do not account for the richness of many religious ideas. The “intuitive assumptions that are used in all religious representations.] . In addition to attempting to account for the transmission of religious ideas. Individuals enhance their religious claims by – 205 – . Rather. While ideas. there are also likely to be significant differences. These and other widely distributed cognitive resemblances both motivate and constrain the transmission of religious ideas. People throughout the world. and those ontologies provide us with a host of expectations and intuitions in all walks of life.The Ethnographer as Pontifex ontological assumptions and commitments. we humans develop rich. “provide the main substance of all inferences and conjectures. the problem of translating is all the more difficult. extra-natural agencies and processes[. makes them interesting and “attention demanding. however. Suffice it for present purposes to foreground only certain features of his theorizing. and I would add that since we deal cross-culturally with resemblances rather than identities (Saler 1993. including the religious. invests them with plausibility and renders them learnable. Boyer links his consideration of transmission processes with his appreciation of family resemblances among religious representations in different cultural settings. both explicit and tacit. Boyer also attempts to account for “important recurrent features in the religious representations that can be found in very different cultural environments” (1994: vii–viii). I prefer to say natural resemblances) in human cognition.

on asking them to explicate and extend their assertions. it enhances the prospects for warrantable explications of religious ideas across populations. – 206 – . but not apparently ideological fashion. in general argument and with the support of some ethnographic examples. On the basis. Some anthropologists (e. but it can be fathomed. and to respond in similarly orderly ways to the inferences of their fellows. of course. That. minimize. sparks the imagination and in that wise renders the beliefs attractive. and I recommend that we attempt to capture and convey some appreciation of our informants’ sense of it – and of the intuitive structures that render it both possible and significant – in our ethnographies. Boyer suggests that on the level of such macro-categories as person.Benson Saler making inferences from their established ontological assumptions and expectations. Believers may not render their sense of the “unnatural” immediately explicit. And. describe and analyze beliefs in ways that mask. Boyer claims. therefore need not depend on exhaustive cultural transmissions.g. Perhaps I can make my widened understanding of translation clearer by briefly comparing it to translation in a narrower. This would account for the recurrence of certain religious ideas in diverse cultural settings. The richness of religious ideas. Garcilaso tells us. in a crude. thus seeming to render those beliefs less troublesome for their readers to apprehend and in some sense accept. in my experience. in fact. or explain away violations of the intuitive. people throughout the world have similar ontological assumptions and expectations. I would add. perhaps because of their commitments in the “rationality” debate that has occupied the attentions of many of us. moreover. an apprehension of the unnatural or counter-intuitive. But intelligibility purchased at the cost of fidelity is not worth much. is what Felipe of Puna did in mistranslating Fray Vicente’s profession of the doctrine of the Trinity: he added the numbers. My suggestion that our ethnographies of religious ideas include explicit considerations of the counter-intuitive – and its dependence on the intuitive – is a facet of a more inclusive suggestion: that we strive for fidelity in a “global” sense. plant. and artifact. emphasis added). and certain arguments advanced by evolutionary biologists and evolutionary psychologists. uninformed. I have in mind “translation” – good translation – very broadly conceived. Leach 1967). and so can be expected to make similar inferences. “in order to make himself understood” (1966: 682. more conventional sense. however. however inchoate. animal. that religious believers themselves often sense something “unnatural” or counter-intuitive in their beliefs – that. experimental studies of concept development in children. Boyer argues. I agree with Boyer’s general argument about the counter-intuitive. of cross-cultural ethnographic data.

I think. In Garcilaso’s case. I am aware that some anthropologists suggest that Evans-Pritchard’s explication of that term is biased by his personal religious proclivities. the appearance of religious conversion). was concerned with how Christian ideas might be “adequately” expressed to Peruvian Indians. Regardless of possible inaccuracies or other deficiencies in the contents of what he writes. and he makes efforts to deal with it in ways that we. If by “translation” we mean translation in the narrow sense sketched above. “they have to seek new words or phrases. there was not only the hope of benefiting the souls of the Indians. it is inadequate for anthropological purposes.The Ethnographer as Pontifex Garcilaso’s Solution and Explication The chronicler Garcilaso de la Vega. at any rate. Evans-Pritchard examines how the term is used in different contexts.” Garcilaso wrote. Garcilaso’s solution is to coin new terms and expressions. or use with great care suitably dignified expressions in the old language or else lay hands on the many words the cultured and scholarly Indians have taken from Spanish and introduced into their own languages. When Spanish interpreters of “these times. in my opinion the task of the ethnographer is explication rather than “translation” in the narrow sense of glossing expressions in one language with terms from another or with freshly minted neologisms. and they can be productive where the translator is sensitive and skilled. then the anthropologist. but also concern for minimizing stresses stemming from the incorporation of the conquered into a new order. and even though his examination may not be exhaustive. Garcilaso himself traced roots to both the Indians and the Spaniards. it may be recalled. however. His father was a conquistador. Indeed. First. he demonstrates the polysemy of kwoth. a second cousin to Atahuallpa. should subsume translation in explication. Our intellectual grasp and appreciation of key terms will be enhanced by an understanding of the domains with which they are associated in native usages. These are conventional instruments of translation in a narrow sense. however. Translation is always motivated. to use with great care possible correspondences (glosses) across languages. Garcilaso had an interest in good translation. wish to express Christian ideas adequately. I do not know enough about the case. and his mother was an Inka noble. the form of his explication deserves admiration on two counts. and to adapt loan words. Although the solution endorsed by Garcilaso may serve for purposes of religious conversion (or. A well-known example of explication is found in Evans-Pritchard’s (1956) discussion of the Nuer term kwoth. his readers. may – 207 – . to evaluate that claim. adapting them to their own ways of speech” (1988: 682). Such explication involves the examination of contexts in which targeted expressions occur and the analysis of any encountered polysemy.

and although his fame in that regard largely rests on his analysis of the “twins are birds” metaphor. what he or she has come to understand about religious ideas studied in the field to an audience (often largely of other anthropologists though sometimes a wider audience) that lacks comparable knowledge and experience of the field situation. he alerts us generally to how a sensitivity to tropes might expand our understandings of religious terms and expressions. indeed. sources that themselves answer to different interests. Efforts to achieve “global” fidelity in the ethnography of religious ideas are efforts at explication that include discussion of the environments and likely polysemy of important religious terms. something of a secular analog to what some religious communities expect of their priests. Second. is required. I think. weighted. his explication is alive to the significance of tropes. as accurately and as cogently as possible. Attempts. Explication of categories and ideas encountered in the field.Benson Saler comprehend. is attempted in the language of the eventual target audience. moreover. in the overwhelming majority of cases. Yet more. They are also inevitably motivated. Efforts at global fidelity are not solely focused on the human population under study. and systematic efforts to make explicit what is significantly implicit. and constrained by considerations relating to the eventual target audience of the ethnographic monograph. – 208 – . In addition to using that audience’s “ordinary language. which may well vary from hedged or weak affirmations to those that seem vigorous and confident. It amounts to a task of mediation or bridge-building between disparate but not entirely incompatible clusters of understandings. It is. the determination and exploration of relevant and revealing tropes. constitutes “translation” in that term’s fundamental etymological senses: “transfer” and “transformation”. are specially refined and often contested versions of Western folk categories (see Saler 2000 [1993] for “religion”). These efforts will collectively support and make more convincing the anthropologist’s theorizing about the functions of religious ideas in discrete populations and in human history. The ethnographer has the difficult task of conveying. Serious efforts should also be made to learn who professes or endorses the reported ideas. In short. conveyance depends on the artful and problem-plagued application and adjustment of categories from different sources. Such conveyance. should be made to assess the relative strength of professions of belief.” explication is also likely to involve the so-called professional analytical categories of anthropologists. and so enlarge and potentially improve the translation task. both with respect to the intuitive structures and understandings that support the plausibility of religious ideas and the counter-intuitive features of those ideas that render them memorable. moreover. And these. the readership of the ethnographic monograph. in any case. for not everyone in a given population may do so.

” Its sense of crossing rather than road. it has unforeseen detours. Benveniste opines. and they administered the ius divinum. . In contemporary Roman Catholic sources the symbolism of bridge-building..” Although we may start with the sense of “road” as crossing associated with the Sanskrit term pánthah.” Thus in a Latin approximation to the realization of such a general signification. because they may have had charge of the Pons Sublicius. . of ethnographic monographs. it is only one of the realizations of the general signification defined here. the laws governing the state cult. “sea. The major purpose of ethnographic bridges. a bridge over the Tiber River that was invested with a sacred significance (Bailey 1932: 162). uncertainty. There were probably three members in the days of the monarchy. and I use the term pontifex analogously here. one of several terms in Vedic texts for “road. new understandings of others and perhaps of themselves. They were termed “bridge-builders. the leader of whom was called pontifex maximus. but they – 209 – . . An analogy is a way of establishing resemblances between things that otherwise differ. The ethnographer is. . which included the regulation of the official calendar. “this sense is no more ‘primordial’ than the others. creatively figured analogies and glosses are salient. metaphorically. “implies difficulty.” one charged with the task of facilitating a “crossing” into the sensibilities and sensitivities of others. bridge + facio. and danger. the divine and the human. it can vary depending on who is traversing it . By the time of the late Republic they numbered sixteen.The Ethnographer as Pontifex The Ethnographer as Pontifex Dictionaries and other sources in English generally state that the “literal” meaning of pontifex is “bridge-builder. and they advised the king on religious matters. “pons will designate the ‘crossing’ of a stream of water or a dip in the ground. In ancient Rome the term pontifex (pl. Benveniste writes. and it may facilitate our crossing. . . to do or to make. Ethnographers not only depend on analogies in their descriptions. And among the building materials utilized to construct such bridges. Emile Benveniste (1971 [1966]: 255–256) relates the Latin pons and the Greek pontos. It is indeed .” to the Sanskrit pánthah. the Pope. a ‘crossing’ attempted over an unknown and often hostile region . pontifices) was applied to the members of a college of priests. is to allow the reading public to cross over to new understandings.” That particular Sanskrit term for “road.” from the Latin pons. but that term was eventually reserved for the Bishop of Rome.” A bridge crosses something. of bridging two domains.” some classicists speculate.” he writes. a “bridge-builder. “explains the diversity of the documented variants. hence a ‘bridge’. is often made explicit. In the early Christian church a bishop was termed pontifex.

Much mischief. I think. despite its overlap with our ideas. however. of course. and it is an idea that occurs in many other societies. We identify flying as a mode of locomotion. those resonate with our understandings.Benson Saler are beholden to them in recognizing problems and interests. Fortunately. although it is plausible both analytically and holistically. That is. “actually captured the meaning” of the Trobriand concept to which his gloss refers? I think that he has. (Saler 1993: 124–125). the expression is holistically meaningful. I think that some students of religion have done a better job of exploring the religious categories of other peoples than have those of the populations for which they write. whereas those of the Fang of Cameroon typically fly on banana leaves [Boyer 1994]). Has Malinowski. with the consequence that their analogies might not be as detailed nor as cogent as they could be. If we suppose that there is warrant to construct bridges of some sort to span the semantic chasms that separate us from others. have no term or category for what we call “religion. Take a case put to me by the editors: Malinowski’s use (in Argonauts of the Western Pacific. that is. The gloss is plausible in these ways: First. And that. one on either side of what they span. when broken down into its components. suggests an important question: analogy to what? Ironically enough. we would do well to remember that bridges normally have two anchoring foundations. Malinowski’s gloss ‘flying witches’ is inadequate by itself. And we identify witches as malevolent beings who utilize magical means to harm others (although I suspect that the term was somewhat less ambiguous in Malinowski’s day. and certain television serials and cartoons support the understanding that not all witches are bad). has accrued from our failures to prepare the ground profoundly enough on our side of the divide. and they can be problematic in ways that are similar to those of other forms of analogy. for the idea of flying witches is well established among us. Religion. but not because of the gloss itself. is established by analogy. I am asked. typically fly on broomsticks. Malinowski supplies more than a gloss. Second. The Wizard of Oz. As I put it elsewhere. 1922) of the gloss ‘flying witches’ for the Kiriwinian term mulukwausi. since in our time Wicca. Still and all.” but the ethnographer recognizes “religion” in their societies by observing local assertions and other behaviors reminiscent of what he or she deems to be religious behaviors elsewhere. Glosses can be viewed as lexical analogies. there are family resemblances among the flying-witch representations in numbers of cultural settings (our witches. for example. He provides us with an explication of certain relevant Trobriand ideas. – 210 – . for example. and by so doing justifies his gloss. Numbers of populations.

however. A collection of quipus. As extensions. parents. but we go on trying. that attempts at bridge-building or crossing-over are inevitably and fatally subverted by cultural barriers encoded in language. there is reasonable hope that such barriers can be overcome. unlikely ever to be achieved in full. their locations. Indeed. lest we forget. The “global fidelity” of which I have spoken is. By referring to these records. however. perhaps the most difficult to obey is the Delphic Imperative. We would do well to remind ourselves that even where we suppose that we control the language and are familiar with the culture. they are rendered complex by the necessity of dealing with newly encountered lexicons and grammars. if not completely then sufficiently enough to satisfy most of our needs. strikes me as too pessimistic a point of view. children. as Boyer’s work suggests. More is required if we are to cross over to warrantable understandings. was in effect a sort of archive. we cannot honestly claim full comprehension of our spouses. That. There are. we also experience genuine difficulty in understanding ourselves. and colleagues. They aver. Garcilaso de la Vega does what good historians normally do: he supports his narrative by citing sources for it. of all the commandments that humanity has saddled itself with. difficulties in crossing over the barriers of language and culture. of course. to be sure. Indeed. of courses. Note 1. The types of knots. and their syntactic relations to other knots were assigned semantic values that stimulated and constrained the memories of specially trained personnel. sometimes with apparent if only limited – but nevertheless gratifying – success. those difficulties are extensions of the difficulties that we encounter in understanding others in our own society. indeed. let alone the Three Persons of the Trinity. “Know thyself!” Such difficulties in understanding may help explain why even persons accounted to be non-religious sometimes avail themselves of priests. – 211 – .The Ethnographer as Pontifex Again. The quipu was a mnemonic device consisting of knots of different kinds tied in various positions on strings. we encounter difficulties in understanding. as at Cajamarca. “translating” (“glossing”) in a narrow sense is unlikely to suffice for anthropological purposes. a desideratum and an ambition. Some persons claim that adequate translation is impossible. and we should aim for the maximum possible. But there are degrees of approximation. And. Yet. For the most part.

1975. O’Neil. Emile. Unpublished Ph. 1959 [1689]. Charles J. John Henry. Leach. J. Edward E. El Inca. pp. New York: Dover. New York: The Free Press. 1982. Andrew Woodfield (ed. Coral Gables: University of Miami Press. Philadelphia: Westminster Press. Belief. dissertation. Newman. Harvard University. Oxford: Oxford University Press.D. Vega. A Cognitive Theory of Religion. 1966. Smith. New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books. Royal Commentaries of the Incas and General History of Peru.” History of Religions 27(1). Rodney. Thomas M. Pascal.). Language. 1994. – 212 – . Kolp. 1985 [1889. Argonauts of the Western Pacific. P. Participation: A Unifying Concept in the Theology of Athanasius. and Unbounded Categories. Saler. The Naturalness of Religious Ideas.Benson Saler References Aquinas. Evans-Pritchard. Harold V. pp. Thomas. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Livermore. 1987. “Virgin Birth”. 1961 [1922]. Berkeley: University of California Press. Woodfield. Mary Elizabeth Meek. “Exorcising the Transcendent: Strategies for Defining Hinduism and Religion. Dutton. Proceedings of the Royal Anthropological Institute 1966: 39–49. An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent. A History of Christian Theology: An Introduction. Cyril.Transcendent Natives. v–xi. 32–55. trans. 1956. Benveniste. The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of: How Science Fiction Conquered the World. Conceptualizing Religion: Immanent Anthropologists. Bailey. Leiden: E. 1983. Placher. 1971 [1966]. John. Summa contra gentiles. Garcilaso de la. Malinowski. Nuer Religion. 1972. and Experience. Edmund. 1932. 1967.” In Thought and Object: Essays on Intentionality. Oxford: Clarendon. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. 1975. Disch. William C. Boyer. Needham. Bronislaw. Benson. trans. 2000 [1993]. Notre Dame IN: University of Notre Dame Press. Locke. Berkeley: The University of California Press. Book IV. Brill. “Foreword. Part Two. Paperback Edition with a new Preface. 1998. Austin: University of Texas Press. Brian K. 1870]. Oxford: Clarendon. Problems in General Linguistics. Phases in the Religion of Ancient Rome. Andrew. New York: E. Alan Lee. trans.

it is. it still outsells every other book. Rabbi Simlai once quipped that translation is an impossible task: “He who translates is a heretic but he who refuses to translate is a blasphemer. Sermons in churches and synagogues are largely devoted to the argument that the Bible does and should apply directly to our lives. But the process of producing these mystic meanings is deeply involved in the translation of Biblical texts into new idioms and the hermeneutic process in general.” No book is more important to Western civilization than the Bible and no book has been more often or more self-consciously translated. Translation as a literary art is an ancient and complicated issue in biblical studies. an anthology of little books (its name in Greek. advertisements and even cartoons remind us of the Bible’s importance to our culture and society. In all its various editions and versions. Ta Biblia. literally means “the little books”) stretching from approximately 1300 BCE (or BC) to the First Century of our era. where the metaphor of translation to heaven also expresses a biblical concept of ecstasy. Segal Bible Translation and Translation to Heaven I will deliberately confuse two different uses of translation – (1) a meaning carried from one language to another with (2) a soul carried from earth to heaven. But let us start with its plain meaning before we get to its mystic meaning. more or less. first of all. I intend to investigate some of the strangest literature of the ancient world. then we go back a fictional 5759 years. But the problems with understanding the Bible come from its very ubiquity. In short. literary works. If Genesis 12 be taken as the beginning of history in the Bible. Scholarship has been able to isolate the time and – 213 – . If the creation is taken as its starting point.–9– Text Translation as a Prelude for Soul Translation Alan F. Editorials. Everyone thinks that he or she understands it because powerful contemporary social institutions continually convince us of its relevance. Yet the Bible is not really the book we think it is. the Bible is a very strange and exotic book that does not share many of our moral and cultural assumptions directly. then the book can be said to cover history from about the Eighteenth Century BCE.

Alan F. Just as with the passage of time itself. became the Scripture of Western European Christianity until the Reformation. For instance. Innovations too were often hidden in the translation. wanted to know the seemingly – 214 – . so “septuagints” were in use there even before this famous story of its composition circulated: According to legend. Translation or the hermeneutic process generally gives us the impression of the Bible’s timeliness. As history progressed. though in the land of Israel there is evidence that educated people spoke all three. The purpose of these translations was to render clearly passages that seemed obscure to a community whose tongue had evolved – first to a new dialect. leaving Latin only for later official correspondence. meaning interpretation or figuratively. then to a new language and finally to a new language family. it has editors. who have made a selection about what the collection should contain and occasionally supplied hints about their varying and sometimes contradictory principles of composition and goals. an illusion purchased at the expense of historical accuracy. Translations of the Bible into Aramaic. The history of Bible translation itself shows us the constant need of translation. The Vulgate. new translations of the Bible’s text became necessary to allow the scriptural community access to it. So our notion that it applies to us and has a message for us is the result of a constant process of hermeneutics. interpretative “retranslation. the Greeks. though still a long time by historical reckoning. But it is an illusion that has gone on since the Bible was assembled and it is an illusion that has a decent future in front of it. as the language of the dominant power changed. the Greek-speaking Jewish community of Alexandria in Hellenistic Egypt could not understand the Hebrew of the original document. These empires ruled Palestine through Aramaic and then Greek mostly. the Bible is hardly a unity in either composition or purpose.” Without this constant process of translation and hermeneutics. but this merely underlines the remarkable success of the process. innovations sometimes great enough to call forth a new divine revelation for justification. called Targums. Rather. a Latin translation of the LXX. the passage of time itself naturally raises the issue of translation and hermeneutics for any scriptural community. Thus. and a definitive translation into Greek. being an anthology. called the Septuagint (from the word “70” in Latin. This process can be exemplified within the Bible itself as well as in all the important translations of the Bible’s text throughout the ages. the Bible would seem to us a very strange and unusual work. Israel fell under the domination of the Babylonians. the Persians. hence abbreviated LXX and really a series of different texts too) was used in the Jewish community by the Third Century BCE. To scholars. Segal reasons for some of the contents of the Bible. Ptolemy Philadelphos. successor to the Pharaohs and descendant of Alexander the Great’s general. demonstrating that it was written over a much shorter period than it claims. and the Romans.

the ancient translations are at best tricky tools. The Targums could be quite literal. presumably as the result of their sensitivity to something in the ancient text. had he known enough Hebrew to compare the two. Difficult or primitive notions. often making simple word-for-word translation feasible. And there is no doubt that the LXX was also a profound reinterpretation of the meaning of the Hebrew text. If Scripture were going to be the only authority and – 215 – . Various important ways of dealing with God’s attributes or appearances or physical shape were developed. Philo’s allegorical theory remained the dominant method for interpreting scripture in the West and certainly helped explain how his. But Philo’s work shows us something else important – how the translation was accepted and used and with what freedom the translation could be taken. The writers of the LXX allowed themselves less freedom than Philo allotted to himself. building 70 small offices to be filled with the most skilled translators. since Aramaic is grammatically and lexically close to Hebrew. posited that in commenting one must guard against saying anything unworthy of God. Neither the Septuagints nor the Targums are notably literal in their rendering of Hebrew syntax or concepts. Even so.Text Translation/Soul Translation secret truths of the Jews. The Septuagint was in some ways a more controlled translation but in other ways it was equally a commentary. Many targumic passages resemble midrash as much as translation. By a miracle they all came up with the same translation. Orthographic conventions in some LXX versions seem to be based on the Palestinian custom of not pronouncing God’s name. Maimonides’. the meturgemans often produced rather long elaborations. For anyone who knows academia this miracle ranks with the creation of the world.1 Although contemporary biblical scholarship values the skill and consistency of the translations of the Targums and the LXXs as important witnesses to ancient understanding of the Bible’s refractory text. It also justified the still suspect process of translation and. the innovations in religious conceptions which were hidden inside the new document. He also said that everything in the Bible could be understood allegorically but only some things could be understood literally – a rather modern hermeneutic strategy. With this flimsy justification. and even Aquinas’ summae could be couched as biblical commentaries. the meturgemans noticeably even introduced technical names for God’s hypostases into the text to avoid saying anything which might seem primitive or uncomplimentary about God. He could certainly have derived that rule from studying the Septuagint. preventing easy generalizations about the LXX’s theory of translation. of course. a wealthy and important Alexandrian Jewish Bible commentator of the First Century. Philo Judaeus. He therefore commissioned a school of advanced studies on Pharos Island in the Nile delta. especially anthropomorphisms and anthropopathisms. were often rendered in more abstract form – though not entirely. we can skip to the Reformation when a more literal school of biblical translation came into vogue.

it has some justification for its word choice because the young woman in Hebrew was already previously translated as parthenos in Greek. In going from the Jewish community to a gentile community (the vector being Hellenistic Judaism and then early Christian preaching). is a moot point. Although the Vulgate is clearly reflecting NT doctrine. thus the Hebrew says only that a girl will conceive and bear a child. especially in Departments of Near Eastern Studies around the world. For instance. in the Second Century. the Greek translation provided the possibility for the development of a new meaning: The Greek translated parthenos for ‘almah and then the NT doctrine arose with the translation already in place. Segal the believer the ultimate judge. every aspect of Bible translation has been studied and reviewed thousands of times. as understood by the Vulgate. which clearly and unambiguously means young woman? Could it be that ‘almah meant virgin after all?3 That pattern is exemplary of many hermeneutical problems in scriptural religions: every significant translation problem also conceals an even more significant problem in changing cultural forms or religious ideas because so much can hinge on one verse of scripture. the temple to the virgin Athena). for instance directly with a new prophetic revelation. Why had the Hebrew text used ‘almah. Whether or not the virgin birth arose as a mistranslation.” (virgo concipiet et pariet filium). this process stimulated and then was furthered by the development of “scientific” or disinterested criticism of the Bible. a relatively rare term. when the Christian community responded to the Jewish charge that the doctrine was based on a mistranslation. .Alan F. a word which usually but not always means virgin (like the Parthenon. let us take the famous example of the Virgin Birth. the other very complex – in an attempt to point to some methodological issues. which translated the verse into Latin as: “A virgin shall conceive and bear a child . and denominational biases. then Scripture would have to be provided in a form that every believer could immediately apprehend.2 But in Hebrew the “virgin” is merely a young woman (‘almah). This New Testament doctrine is proof-texted in Isaiah 7:14. Indeed. so it represents an opportunity for pinning on a new doctrine. the meaning of the text changed radically to resonate in an environment where the sexual relations between gods and virgins signalled the birth of a hero. Most contemporary Bible translations are as slavishly literal as the two languages will allow. the doctrine would have to be validated in other ways. Otherwise. It is in that context that I wish to bring you two different problems in translation – one quite short. rather. doctrinal. their focus was turned not to the translation itself but the force of the Hebrew. – 216 – . comparative Semitics and intense word studies were considered the basic method for removing dogmatic. in place of the ordinary na’arah. We shall return to this paradigm later. Of course. so I will simplify wherever possible. however. The translation of the Hebrew ‘almah by the LXX parthenos is not necessarily wrong. Of course. . In our postmodern world this seems naively optimistic. For a while.

Good examples would be Jesus’ hardline preaching about divorce (Mk 10:1–12. if you will.5 Any detailed notion of an afterlife had been banished for so long from biblical literature that when it appeared for the first time. like the legend of the LXX. including states of consciousness which are often suspiciously “abnormal” to moderns. textual scholars have more difficulty squeezing information out of refractory. either from Jesus directly in the Gospels or from his disciples and apostles. haphazardly preserved. In this respect many are miles behind the methodological sophistication achieved in Anthropology but. some to everlasting life. its belated presence required special revelatory authority: Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth* shall awake. Thus. they help us understand how change enters religious communities. (Daniel 12:2) * or the land of dust ** or dome – 217 – . in the prophecy of Daniel 12:2f. a Problem of Cultural Translation The major problem which I want to bring up is how modern scholars and religious persons interpret and translate terms indicating religiously altered states of consciousness (RASC. and often fragmentary ancient texts than field workers have squeezing out of unco-operative informants. often in RASC. like the stars forever and ever. But I will try to show that RISC and RASC were not only very important in Hebrew thought but. and some to shame and everlasting contempt. want to explain religious phenomena in rational terms. for short) or religiously interpreted states of consciousness (RISC.** and those who lead many to righteousness. RASC is often the description of the native actor. at least. where Peter has an ecstatic vision).Text Translation/Soul Translation Inspired Texts and Religiously Interpreted States of Consciousness. in fairness. whether granting the validity of the religious experience or not. For instance. justifying changes in translation and interpretation. while RISC is a term which would satisfy any modern observer. Jesus takes the authority to change the law himself) or Peter’s vision that all food was suitable for Christian consumption (Acts 10:9–29. it is impossible to understand how Christianity gained the authority to reevaluate scripture without beginning with the Christian notion of the presence of the Holy Spirit – the spirit of prophecy.4 The Bible often records that its texts were received by inspired prophecies of various kinds. Novel interpretations were legitimated by direct revelation. Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky. for short). but certainly often a RASC – within the early Christian community. Claims to religiously altered states of consciousness are an especially difficult question for modern religious exegetes who either want to show that their own religion is rational or. Matt 19:1–12.

Like the ancient world. face to the ground. Daniel. as the stars were conventionally understood as a kind of angel (See Judges 3:20 and Job 38:7). no meat or wine had entered my mouth. the apocalyptic literature of the first centuries BCE and CE (or BC and AD) may credibly be understood as having developed out of real visions (RASCs) and dreams (RISCs). But the notion of resurrection needs an even greater justification. a religiously altered state of consciousness (RASC): At that time I. So I was left alone to see this great vision. and when I heard the sound of his words. and they fled and hid themselves. Segal This passage essentially outlines a novel idea. Such a major change in a scripturally based religion takes a very special kind of justification. a place of darkness much like Hades. which culminates in some of the leaders (“those who are wise”) being transformed into angels. It is revealed not in a dream but in an ecstatic vision (hayyπι niRdam). I had eaten no rich food. and I retained no strength. (Daniel 10:2–10) This experience is like the previous dream in that it is being interpreted as a religious experience but it is clearly a higher and more potent form of religious experience in the opinion of the narrator. and told the sum of the matter” (Daniel 7:1). and my complexion grew deathly pale. since the story of Joseph. his face like lightning. In fact. Daniel thus needs a new revelation to promulgate his new ideas: “In the first year of Belshaz’zar king of Babylon. as dreams are being used to justify the revelatory nature of the information gained. his eyes like flaming torches. Daniel. not the usual method for the literary prophets. with a belt of gold from Uphaz around his waist. and the sound of his words like the roar of a multitude. alone saw the vision. Then I heard the sound of his words. his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze. Daniel 7 represents the new dispensation as having arrived in revelatory dream visions. as I was standing on the bank of the great river (that is. But then a hand touched me and roused me to my hands and knees. His body was like beryl. though a great trembling fell upon them. My strength left me. I take this to be an example of a religiously interpreted state of consciousness (RISC). had been mourning for three weeks. the people who were with me did not see the vision. On the twenty-fourth day of the first month. Then he wrote down the dream. though we would not usually grant them prophetic power. Daniel had a dream and visions of his head as he lay in his bed. I fell into a trance [italics added]. for the full three weeks. – 218 – . we certainly grant that ordinary people have dreams. the Tigris). Before this the dead were usually thought to go to Sheol. but certainly well known as a medium for God’s Word. Sheol is very often parallel simply to “the grave” in Hebrew poetry. resurrection. I. I looked up and saw a man clothed in linen.Alan F. Resurrection and translation to heaven followed by astral immortality for some of the leaders entered Israelite thought together. From my perspective then. and I had not anointed myself at all.

But scholars also have scholarly and well-documented reasons for their skepticism of these revelations. Then too. certainly believed that there was a continuous tradition of RASC and RISC in Judaism. This applies equally to Protestants. and Jews. 1991). He suggested that especially the talmudic texts had no original mystical content and that the rabbis themselves practiced no more than “ascetic ecstasy” (whatever that may mean). For the faithful. For instance. since many Americans prefer their religion rational. and fundamentalist groups do. who virtually invented the field of Jewish mysticism as an object of study. Catholics. he never adequately described what he meant by “mysticism. not between Protestants. it is natural to suspect that the experience narrated in them is equally spurious. (Schäfer 1981. apocalyptic truths can be doubted because many apocalyptic books are not part of the canon. the vast majority of the apocalyptic documents are pseudonymously attributed to patriarchal and antediluvian biblical heroes. I will show that some believing Jews and Christians and many modern scholars have remained skeptical about their revelatory content. The History of the Study of Biblical RISC and “Jewish Mysticism” Although Gershom Scholem. Merkabah mysticism. Since we know that the attribution to Daniel. even though some modern religious skeptics might doubt the reality of the experience and modern religionists might want to translate the religious experience into more rational terms that can be more readily accepted by a modern religious audience. writing on the later hekhaloth (“Palaces”) material in Jewish. 1984. suggested that the basic early mystical texts are considerably younger in their present form than Scholem thought and contain little visionary material. Gullup and Castelli 1989). Belief in a literal resurrection is one of the most obvious and clear indicators of that gulf: liberal and mainline denominations do not take the ancient ideas literally while the conservative. Peter Schäfer.”7 This left room for scholars of Judaism of a more rational persuasion to demur. – 219 – . Paul and the prophets are often more comfortably treated as social critics and theologians rather than as ecstatic preachers and visionaries. Ephraim Urbach. and Jews (Gallup and Proctor 1982.6 And certainly few modern scholars would admit that the seers actually took trips to heaven. Ezra and the rest must be spurious. The biggest differences in American religions today are to be found between the liberal and mainline denominations on the one hand and the evangelicals. as the texts maintain. and fundamentalists on the other. Abraham. conservatives. Like Daniel. questioned whether the texts themselves claimed actual mystical experience (Urbach 1967). Catholics. Adam. Although Daniel and most subsequent apocalypses describe a variety of revelatory experiences. in a famous article in the Scholem Festschrift. evangelical.Text Translation/Soul Translation which provide the basic authority and justification for the innovation.

This fallacy seems to me to dog much of Scholem’s presentation. Though she admits the widespread presence and valorization of visionary experience in Hellenistic culture in general and in Philo Judaeus. she follows David Halperin’s and Peter Schäfer’s skepticism of actual visionary experience in the hekhaloth texts. But it is easy to slip from this into the illusion that we can explain the ascension materials in the apocalypses and the Hekhalot by pointing to the supposed reality of the experience underlying them. Ascent to Heaven in Jewish and Christian Apocalypses (1993). 7) In spite of Halperin’s many accomplishments in this book. of course. He did not. but that they “really” believed that they had done so.Alan F. in which he decides to begin the project of the book by distinguishing between the “true” and “false” exegeses of Ezekiel 1. even if they are influenced by exegesis and even if they seem to us “hallucinations” because they recount events which we assume to be impossible or which take place only “internally. Halperin criticized Scholem for thinking that the texts could have any valid religious experience. he remains unreceptive to the notion that there was any religious experience present in these texts. whereas. indeed more rational than Christianity. mean that they “really” ascended to heaven. the throne chariot which Ezekiel saw (Ez 1) and which carried a figure which the text calls “the Glory of the Lord” (Ez 1:26). on this fundamental issue Scholem’s position is the more rational. She further restricts her purview only to those texts which explicitly discuss ascent. In her relatively recent book. this hallucinatory “experience” itself cries out for explanation. she eliminates any of these texts from consideration because they are mystical texts or philosophical treatises and not Jewish or Christian apocalypses. But she takes this scepticism about RASC backward in time to the Jewish and Christian apocalypses of the first few centuries. Events experienced as real do have real consequences for the people experiencing them. Segal David Halperin’s The Faces of the Chariot (1988. They were a kind of faulty exegesis or even hallucination: Scholem’s stress on the reality of the Merkabah mystics’ ecstatic experiences can be misleading.8 Every scholar right now must begin with a critique of Gershom Scholem. see also his 1980) makes innumerable new and very fine points about the development of the tradition of the Merkabah (mrkbh). However. of course. The forced choice between hallucination and exegesis is fallacious. eliminating many apocalypses where ecstasy – 220 – . (p.” Martha Himmelfarb’s research is also characteristic of the reaction to Scholem’s valorization of the ecstatic dimension of Jewish mysticism. He begins by narrating a conversation between him and his teacher Isadore Rabinowitz. the one scholar who perspicaciously noticed a continuous mystical tradition in Judaism – all the more remarkable as modern Jews overwhelmingly wanted to present Judaism as a rational religion based on a revealed law.

114)9 This position thoroughly confuses the experience of the creators of the text with that of the readers. e. no claim for actual religious ritual or ascent]. But this term itself is confusing because “rapture” is the same term that especially Christian fundamentalists use to describe the salvation of the just at the apocalypse. the purpose of which was to give solace to a demoralized community. that goes beyond anything found in the Bible and was profoundly appealing to ancient Jews and Christians. recitation itself has become the ritual. Himmelfarb’s position is not naive rationalism. not by mystical praxis.Text Translation/Soul Translation is claimed and the contents of the heavens or divine plans for history are discussed without an explicit ascent narrative. the era of the great rabbis of the Mishnah. needs to be carefully considered and. For Himmelfarb. The actual performance of the acts is attributed to a mystic past. In the process she eliminates a good many valuable examples of RISC or RASC experience from consideration. rejected soundly. (p. therefore as a totally literary motif and not mystical. Kabbalah: New Perspectives (1989) which forcefully demonstrates that meditative experiences were regularly sought by Jewish mystics. and they effected nothing outside the mind of the reader. Even the exceptionally well-reasoned book of Moshe Idel. we should read the text as merely conforming to a literary convention. To begin with. with no apparent difference. Himmelfarb suggests we talk only about a literary motif of “rapture. This hypothesis. for it is only an hypothesis. No such claim can be made for the ascent apocalypses [I. and is not in any way under the control of the mystagogue. Her dismissal of ecstasy. If I read them correctly. Their stories performed no task. is to my way of thinking incorrect in a number of ways. for telling the story is enough. which is where stories always perform their work. her conception is rather similar to thinking that the Virgin Birth is purely a translation problem and reflects no social realities in Hellenistic Judaism and the early Church. like the glorious ones. She uses this term because she wishes to emphasize that the heavenly journey comes unbidden. – 221 – . the early apocalypses were merely literary creations. She then maintains that wherever the texts say that the seer is having a religious experience. Reading them was not a ritual act. their most important accomplishment was to suggest an understanding of human possibility. I think. based on 1 Thessalonians 4:13f and 2 Thessalonians 2. which I will try to correct as we go along. There is no religious experience in the texts at all: No need for the mystic to ascend. In the midst of an often unsatisfactory daily life. The readers of the texts did not even use them to ascend vicariously to the heavens through the process of reading. based on the notion that the ascent can be explained in the apocalypses purely in a literary way. was unable to dissuade her. In place of religious experience.” which is a slippery category. they taught their readers to imagine themselves like Enoch. of the status of the righteous in the universe.

All we have are the texts.Alan F. To do so we must equally doubt all ancient texts. Authenticity is very similar. Carlos Castaneda’s books are now regarded. The question is really that of what is being claimed for the experience and of how the claims are validated and competing claims adjudicated. We cannot automatically move from written word to the narrator’s state of mind. first of all. one cannot merely doubt the religious value of a text because of modern skepticism about the possibility of ascending to heaven as is so often reported in ancient Jewish texts. fraudulently purporting to be from the ancient personages to whom they are ascribed? Can the scholar imagine that these experiences were legitimate and authentic. narrated the case of a sorcerer who candidly admitted to tricking the audience. say. Yet.10 Lévi-Strauss. Nor can we question an actual adept as we might in contemporary fieldwork. we know that the Zohar was written in Spain in the Thirteenth Century by Moses of León and his circle. The sincerity of any historical writer is extremely hard if not impossible to evaluate without more extra-literary evidence. even if they presuppose journeys which are literally impossible? At first. in his famous seminal essay “the Sorcerer and his Magic” (1983). Categories of authenticity are seldom simple. Pseudonymity and Fraud in RISC We must. Segal We must be clear about something very fundamental: we cannot ever know the experience of another directly. for example. It does not immediately relegate the writing to fraud and fiction – even in the way that. Yet. the whole question seems inappropriate. historical novels pretending to be the actual religious experience of prophets in the way that Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe pretends to be the journal entries of a shipwrecked sailor? Is there any religious experience behind the texts or are they merely novels. That does not mean that it is not important for understanding the religiosity of the Thirteenth Century. in a novel or poem. How much more so in the case of experience narrated in text. – 222 – . Because of Scholem. We can sense irony. We live in a world where we cannot actually be sure that we all experience the color red in the same way. but without knowing some things about the writer it is often very hard to specify what kind of irony it is. Pseudonymous authorship does not automatically disqualify the work from being religious or accurate or real experience and certainly does not render a text useless. even the ones which Himmelfarb accepts as revelatory. not in Palestine in the Second Century by Rabbi Simon bar Yohai and his circle. The question which Himmelfarb asks therefore boils down to one of religious authenticity: are they religious texts or are they frauds. develop a little more sophistication in dealing with the question of pseudonymity and authenticity. The question is not what the experience is in itself.

RASC and RISC were regular features of pre-literary Israelite prophetic culture. especially in societies and cultures where such events are expected. it also suggests that the qualifications for real vision do not entirely depend on what the subject intends at the time. the decisions may be entirely due to social processes.12 In this narrative RASC is described among the bands of prophets who were Micaiah’s rivals as – 223 – . On the other hand. In other words. both consonant and dissonant. Elijah. could receive messages from God by paranormal means. depending on whether possession or trance is expected of revelations and. The conclusion of the deliberation is that God appoints a spirit to mislead all his legitimate prophets so as to ensnare Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead. although there were some strict conventions about conceptualizing them.11 All of these issues seem to say that religious experiences can be faked easily and frequently by people wishing to claim the charismatic authority that comes from revelation. a brief history is in order. most often these judgments are due to the social position of the actors in the situation. sincerity. and Elisha are merely the most famous. there is a clear process of socialization where the practitioner comes to learn what is expected of him or her by the guild and the populace. In other words. describes a complete scene in the heavenly throne room which he saw through prophetic vision. the sorcerer felt that the tricks improved the effectiveness of the cure because some patients were healed. the pre-literary prophets. The rules and clues within the society differ. and effectiveness. alternatively. of which Nathan. but also in waking visions. Furthermore. where he will die (1 Kings 22:19–23). The earliest prophets in Israelite history. But since RASC has been disputed in Israelite culture. the practitioner can have a wide variety of cognitions. On the other hand. But usually the practitioner in the end learns to think of his or her contribution as sincere if the role played is highly regarded in the society. a lesser-known but very important prophet. (Ripinsky-Naxon 1993). RISC in Ancient Hebrew Culture Neither ecstasy nor possession nor the techniques to achieve it were foreign to Israel. In 1 Kings 22 Micaiah ben Imlah. anthropological literature is full of examples of the ways cultures can distinguish between effectiveness and sincerity of ecstatics and healers. During the process. they are perspectival within the society.Text Translation/Soul Translation even in this case. People learn what is expected of certain roles. People in many traditional societies are quite sophisticated in discovering feigned possession and insanity. the perpetrator of a fraud can still think that his healings or visions are valid. God’s Word could come to prophets through a variety of paranormal means – mostly through dreams and auditions. and also people do have unbidden RASCs not under their conscious control. about the relationship between technique.

The scene is actually God’s heavenly throne-room with two manlike – 224 – . and literary creation went together for Israelite prophets. usually concerning the operation of the universe and final disposition of the righteous and sinners and the end of time. The scene is a dream vision (Dan.13 Bible scholars sharply diverge on the role of RISC in the formation of literary prophecy (those prophets who left us books). Saul and David were both criticized for dancing amid the prophets. Daniel and Apocalyptic Writings Apocalypticism is a literary form in which the writer reveals (the Greek verb apokalypto means “I uncover”) heavenly secrets. if so. we cannot be sure precisely whether trance and possession was characteristic of all the prophets and. but they also function as indicators of RASC in prophecy. And these defined roles were by no means unique among Ancient Near Eastern cultures. The evidence. if anything. In Daniel 7. Indeed. are technical terms expressing human resemblance to God and God’s ability to appear as a human. the most obvious apocalyptic book in the Bible. ecstasy. Israelite culture was parochial and rural by comparison to the civilized conventions in the great river valleys. It seems to start as prophecy is waning and continues the literary traditions which are found in prophecy. our knowledge of the vocabulary of RISC is greatly aided by the literary prophets. because they are universally admired as great literary creations and it is hard to know how trance. For instance. in fact. The only thing we can say for sure is that the Spirit of the Lord continues to possess the literary prophets and gives them legitimacy. 7:2) and the preposition “k” (“like” or “as”) makes clear that the experience is understood to be unusual and paranormal. It is not known whether or how these related experiences correspond to the literary prophetic books in the canon. since there are equally a wide variety of behaviors and consciousnesses describable by trance or ecstasy. at least for potential rulers. There are ample precedents for the role of these religiously altered states of consciousness in the neighboring cultures of the ancient Near East. both terms. what kinds of trance and possession were found among them. suggests a variety of different techniques. I think it would be unwise merely to dismiss this evidence as a mere idiom. So notions of role differentiation were evolving even in the earliest period of Israelite culture. appearance and image. We see the same conventions three centuries later in the book of Daniel. Segal well.Alan F. and we see an explosively subversive notion that God can deliberately mislead some of His prophets to effect His own designs. Though we know that dancing and wild antics were sometimes reported of prophetic guild members. we remember that we are explicitly being told about a RISC. Indeed. Ecstatic behavior was also sometimes criticized. We cannot even be sure that they all used the same techniques.

No exegete would have spelled out such a heretical implication. The big question is: “What kind of experience is it?” Well. Somehow the experience of the later prophet. At the same time the prophet incorporates all kinds of new experience including the Canaanite mythological image into his scene. in biblical Aramaic and in the post-biblical dialect barnasha). it’s a dream vision. Novelistic imagination could not have done the trick for the ancients. In Daniel 10:5 “a man clothed in linen. Gabriel is described as “the man Gabriel whom I had seen in the vision at first” (9:21). is being translated and conditioned by the writings of Ezekiel. in such a traditional culture no one could make up such a heretical scene as two divinities who are one without relying on some divine sanction. since it suggests that there may be more than one divinity. Daniel sees a human figure. one old (“The Ancient of Days”) and the other young (“the son of man”). is described in a way reminiscent of Ezekiel’s description of God’s glory. an angel “shaped in the likeness of a man” (kdemuth bnei adam). All this would be conventional except for one thing: there are two different manifestations of God. the Kavod YHWH. At his second appearance. writing under the pseudonym of Daniel. quite unique in the biblical canon in fact. God appearing in two different forms at once is very puzzling and it clearly innovates in a very daring way on the notion that God can appear as human or not.14 It is hard to imagine that anything other than a “prophetic dream” would have made this heretical scene possible! The Daniel passage is based upon the Ezekiel passage but no one would say that it is simple exegesis. the principal human manifestation of God – an angel if you will. If this is not a vision then it ought to be.Text Translation/Soul Translation figures. signifying that the next figure in the vision was shaped like a man and reminding us that this is not Daniel’s usual consciousness. It cannot be merely exegesis of the Ezekiel passage because there is so much manifestly new material in it. Behind this passage is originally a Canaanite mythologem describing El’s enthronement of his son Ba’al but no one knows how it has become a “kosher” vision. So a reflection of real experience is quite obvious. the text tells us that. one an “Ancient of Days” and the second a “son of man” (bar enash. The best guess as to the identity of the figure shaped like a man is that he is simply the Glory of the Lord. Again in Daniel 10:16. In fact. for some angels were envisioned in human form. The prophet stays on earth in his bed but at the same time he is translated to heaven at the same time as he translates the Ezekiel passage into more personal experience. in whose form God deigns to appear. The hypothesis that we have a transcript of the dream-vision – with the attendant caveat that all discursive – 225 – . probably as before. Son of man is not a title and can only mean the divine figure has a human form because the phrase “son of man” usually means simply a human being in most Semitic languages. The exact phrase in Daniel is “one like a son of man” (kbar ‘enash).” probably an angel.

indeed it is totally anathema to any educated Hebrew exegesis. But from early texts that we do have.) describes the way in which apocalyptic material relates to its biblical past. 218). but actually the result of meditation on the whole chapter. not just by dream visions but induced by fasting and mourning. for instance in 4 Ezra 12:11. They do not comment on the text and produce a commentary.” who comes with the clouds of heaven. we must not completely deny the idea that somewhere along the line. The theophany in 1 Enoch 14:8ff is clearly related to the theophany in Ezekiel. we know that biblical text thought to contain the Word of God was transcribed very conservatively. “a lofty throne”) the frequent mention of fire and certain key words like “lightning” and “crystal. A very interesting relationship between biblical texts and those found in Enoch is formed by the elements from chapter 1 of Ezekiel and Isaiah 6. Christopher Rowland (1982: 217f. there are very few actual contacts. most especially. But the chapters from Ezekiel and Isaiah are clearly informing the Enoch texts. The ascent texts appear to flesh out various biblical texts into a vision of heavenly reward and punishment. We see the leaders rewarded with heavenly immortality as stars and the very worst of the sinners punished for having persecuted the righteous. But the most obvious way to describe the relationships between the two sets of texts is that the biblical quotations were read – 226 – . They seemingly combine the images at will and come up with a detailed new narrative which uses the fragmentary images of the Bible to forge a new story of consolation. but there are very few precise contacts. we are constantly given the details of Daniel 12 spelled out in many ways. Of course. However. Segal language implies some interpretation – is the best explanation for the event.” as well as the reference to the wheels of the merkabah (14:18). one that is beholden to RASC. But the characteristics of the text remain the same. We have no way of knowing how many changes may have entered the text before it is witnessed in the archeological record. which describes the “son of man. Thus. where the beasts are said to arise from the sea. The good are rewarded and the evil punished. according to the text. Even more obvious is the relationship between the various ascent texts in Enoch and their biblical forebears. Apart from the reference to the throne which is just as much influenced by Isaiah 6:1 (see 1 Enoch 14:18. Many of the traditions found in the Enoch cycle are excellent examples. reorganized through RISC: “It is most unlikely that a careful interpreter of Daniel 7 would have linked the divine envoy with the home of the beasts and thereby deliberately linked the divine with the demonic in the way in which we find it in this chapter” (p. a literary copyist glossed some of the biblical material. He notes. verse 13. the specific details of the vision in 4 Ezra are brought about.Alan F. This kind of mélange of images is not the result of exegesis. that the man (vir perfectus) who rises from the sea is an allusion to Daniel 7 and. allusions to figures rising from the sea come from earlier in the chapter. Now.

the magic use of shamanic techniques to stimulate these “out-of-body” experiences. 4). spells. and mantralike prayers. Strangely enough. in mantra-like phrases which are evidently meant to promote contemplation and trance – like the songs. Then one perceives the chambers as if one saw the seven palaces with his own eyes. One stated purpose of Merkabah mysticism. This vocabulary in Greek was known to Paul and became a central aspect of Paul’s explanation of the Christian message (Kim 1984: 214). called Hekhaloth Rabbati and Hekhaloth Zutreti. or theurgy. And there are two mishnayoth which the tannaim taught regarding this topic. ascension. which makes them available later as the bits of experience out of which the ascensions are formulated. Hai Gaon recounts that the journey to view this divine figure was undertaken by mystics who put their heads between their knees (the posture Elijah assumed when praying for rain in 1 Kings 18:42). glossolalic incantations. one must follow a certain procedure.16 while reciting repetitious psalms. the same language also seemed to the ancients to suggest something very deep and mystical about the way in which humans resembled God and conversely how God could be figured in human form. (see Saake 1973. In the Ninth Century. So I am saying that Jews of the First Centuries BCE and CE. like in all preceding and succeeding centuries.” meaning speculation on the measurements of the divine stature of God) gives the exact measurements of each organ and appendage of God’s angelic human manifestation. which are recorded in abundance in the hekhaloth literature: When one seeks to behold the Merkabah and the palaces of the angels on high.15 They also certainly valued ecstasy or trance as a medium for revelation and developed techniques for signaling that ecstasy or trance was occurring. The reading is the process by which the seer assimilates details of the text into memory. – 227 – . and charms of the hekhaloth (“Palaces”) literature. One must fast a number of days and place one’s head between one’s knees and whisper many hymns and songs whose texts are known from tradition. in the Hellenistic period. is to “see the King in His beauty” (Grünwald 1980: 156. 193 n. “Measure of the Stature. took RASC very seriously. and it is as though one entered one palace after another and saw what is there. the so-called Shiur Koma Literature (vy[wr qwmh. Jewish Mysticism as Continuous with Prophecy and Apocalypticism In Jewish mysticism. these terms rightly became associated with the language of translation in two senses – in the translation of the texts and also in the sense of ascent. These beliefs pervaded Jewish culture as well and enriched Jewish spirituality. As we have seen. Benz 1952). as it is outlined in the hekhaloth texts.Text Translation/Soul Translation and understood by people who studied them carefully and then they became parts of the dreams and visions which they experienced.

in the form of resurrection and translation to the heavenly realm where angelic transformation was effected. and. we can now set out to answer another question that has been posed by scholars with regard to the visionary component of this literature. It was a ferocious revelation of vengeance against the enemies of God and eternal happiness for the martyred saints. Did the Merkabah mystics actually ascend to the celestial realm and did they see something “out there. But that is precisely what makes it so important to the understanding of the sect that produced Daniel or the early Christians. Such an important doctrine as life after death for the righteous (and especially the martyrs). It takes issue with Halperin. contra Scholem). Himmelfarb. and Schäfer on the issue of the reality of the experience: Bearing the inherently symbolic nature of the visionary experience in mind. was not merely discussed as a philosophical option. the human figure on the throne. By the Second Temple period. historical prophecy was in the eyes of the central authorities either a phenomenon of the distant past or the eschatological future (see Aune 1983: 81–152). But note that even at this late date the language which conveys the RASC is the description of the ascent itself. Wolfson’s (1994) recent and quite sensitive book. Segal Luckily. We know that the adept is on earth but that he travels through the heavenly palace – as it turns out. The “palaces” appear to be alternative names for the heavenly spheres (Morray-Jones 2002. The easiest hypothesis is that it was present in the Jewish and Christian apocalypses as well. They felt that the end of time was upon them and therefore it was expected that prophets would again speak. details which we learn from the texts themselves. it was present in the Hellenistic world. The Gaon is aware of the mystical techniques for heavenly ascent and describes them as “out-of-body” experiences where the adept ascends to heaven while his body stays on earth. Clearly. a revelation which arrived through the media of dreams and visions to a nameless seer whom we know only as Daniel in approximately 165 BCE. these are RASC techniques and are recognized by the Gaon to be such. Nothing in Hebrew thought could be exegeted to find such a doctrine.Alan F. they also contain instructions on how to perform the ritual that Hai Gaon relates. it was sought with consciously articulated techniques in Jewish mysticism thereafter as late as the Ninth Century. as we have just seen. Elliot R. This does not happen without some form of RASC. who partakes of the divine name YHWH in a mystical way. Even if they now contain some further additions. texts called Hekhaloth Rabbati and Hekhaloth Zutreti have survived. to visit God’s Vice-regent.” or should these visions be read as psychological accounts of what may be considered – 228 – . The question which most intrigues me is how to judge the issue of consciousness in the ancient texts of the Hellenistic world. Ecstatic experience was present in biblical prophecy. on the Merkabah mysticism flatly rejects the excessive reductionism or a literary fiction.

entering and exiting. But even in the case of the latter explanation. which I would not want to defend for long.17 What is more important is that Paul is flatly stumped by the mechanism. ascending and descending. looking and hearing (p. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven – whether in the body or out of the body I do not know. which man may not utter.” Second Corinthians therefore suggests – at the very least – that Paul has not entirely adopted the Platonic notion of the immortal soul – psyche. a translation into the heavenly realm of the whole person with all the sensory faculties intact. would it perhaps be most accurate to describe the heavenly journey in Jungian terms. meaningful. and I know that this man was caught up into Paradise – whether in the body or out of the body I do not know. we know that someone in the First Century is having this experience. He expresses this importance with Jungian terms. God knows – and he heard things that cannot be told. as a descent into and discovery of the archetypal self? From a straightforward reading of the extant sources it would appear that some texts assume a bodily ascent. standing and sitting. but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord.Text Translation/Soul Translation in Freudian language a type of self-hypnosis? Or. whereas others assume an ascent of the soul or mind separated from the body as the result of a paranormal experience such as a trance-induced state. Had he done so. such as the fiery gyrations of the eyeballs. it is evident that the physical states are experienced in terms of tactile and kinesthetic gestures and functions appropriate to the body. to suggest yet a third alternative. He will not risk a guess as to whether this ascent was “in the body” or “out of the body. singing and uttering hymns. I would certainly agree that they are normal occurences and can be significant. Wolfson must be correct in thinking that the experience has some salutary component for the mystic or it would not have been recounted and retold. typified most strikingly in Hekhalot Rabbati in the story concerning the recall of R. God knows. In fact. he could not have allowed the – 229 – . as we shall see below. (2 Corinthinians 12:1–4) Whether Paul is describing his own or someone else’s experience. Paul here tells us that he knows someone who has had both revelations (apokalypseis) and visions (optasiai): the problem for Paul is not to decide whether this heavenly journey was sane but rather whether it took place inside or outside of the body: I must boast. 108–109). the apostle Paul gives us sure and certain evidence that First Century Jews were receiving revelation through RASC. and salutary to human life in cultures that value them. Jung suggests that these images are in various ways part of the fundamental psychological processes of human beings and aid in our ability to successfully individuate and mature. The vast majority of scholarship thinks that Paul is describing himself. there is nothing to be gained by it. Nehuniah ben Ha-Qanah from his ecstatic trance.

James H. It is reminiscent of taking testimony in a courtroom. No doubt this is a fictionalized account but exactly how much of it is augmented by literary imagination cannot be discussed here. it is very difficult to reach some scholarly disinterestedness about what is happening in these heavenly translations. Soul flight is the explanation of the aforementioned description of Rabbi Hai Gaon. But it is clear from the context that his body is on earth. Because modern commentaries are suffused with the scholar’s own interpretation of the value or possibility of these experiences. it is important to realize that all these terms are being mediated by modern social norms as well as ancient ones.Alan F. is described as sitting on a pure marble slab traveling in heaven explicitly in a RASC while describing the sights to an assembled group of rabbis sitting on earth and listening in ordinary consciousness. the issue of consciousness and the evaluation of various mental states is an iceberg underlying both the ancient texts and much of the scholarly discussion as well. Cardeña – 230 – . his visions were denigrated by his Zen Roshi as undesirable snares to his further enlightenment. Segal possibility that a body could ascend to heaven and he would have had soul flight as a ready-made for the mechanism of the journey. on the other hand.18 Thus. Nehuniah is recalled for further questioning when he says something puzzling and then is sent back into his trance to finish his journey. In one interesting place. to his immense disappointment. so the language of ascent is functioning to express the RASC. he can suggest how his experiences relate to various functions in the brain. So the trance and the trip to heaven are entirely parallel. Austin relates various zen states to perfectly normal or trainable aspects of brain activity. Suffice it to say. Indeed. he narrates a vision which came to him in Zen meditation and which deeply impressed him in clarity and lucidity. and RISCs In his recent book on zen and brain functioning. following most modern anthropologists and social scientists. there has been a great deal of research of late on the various neurological bases of religious and other anomalous experiences (Persinger 1987. One can easily see that in other mystical traditions and societies these visions would have been one of the highest goals of consciousness (Austin 1998: 469–80). miraculous as it appeared to him. Normality.19 Implicit within the judgments of the modern scholars are a number of assumptions about what kinds of consciousness are appropriate or sane. especially when supplemented by the famous passage in Hekhaloth Rabbati where a rabbinic adept. Brain Functioning. When they wish to recall him they touch him in a such a way as to give him the slightest bit of cultic impurity. Nehuniah ben Hakkanah. As a neurologist and experimental physician.

For instance. This center controls our feelings of where we are in space. These books demonstrate that perfectly normally functioning brains can spontaneously or by various techniques be stimulated to have anomalous and other religious experiences. Newberg et al. If we make allowances for the fact that a variety of different stimuli can produce similar effects in ways we are just beginning to understand. experiences eternal bliss. displays in convenient form many of the motifs which appear in the heavenly journeys. in her 1984 book Heavenly Journeys. this can be understood as being a heavenly journey. others achieve the state in meditation. 47 note). the intellectual scheme used for expressing this state will depend on the cultural assumptions of the subject. or the accidental discovery of hallucinogenic plants that give a sense of euphoria. and when that center is quiet subjects report that they no longer perceive their bodily location. The physical experience and the culture cooperate to produce various experiences which we find impossible to verify from the perspective of our cultural norms. Dean-Otting – 231 – . Obviously. and random acts of violence. Nevertheless. liberated from the restrictions of time and space.Text Translation/Soul Translation et al. although they are alike in that they all have an etiology in unusual functioning of our brain. being one with Brahma perceiving the state of no duality. The Heavenly Journey Mary Dean-Otting.20 He quotes Mary Bernard. they were real and important and quite normal for those who experienced them. and distort time and space making them balloon outward in greatly expanded vistas?” (p. dislocate the center of consciousness. Some people seem to be able to do this spontaneously. Heavenly journey has a correlative in the functioning of the brain. It takes translation to produce a translation. Exaltation in the mind produces the myth of exaltation. Depending on the cultural context in which they live. others report the state after disease or trauma or under the effects of various drugs. derangement. In the 1970s and 1980s Huston Smith discussed the prospect that notions of the afterlife and the soul’s immortality were developed out of these feelings which he experienced experimentally with LSD and psylocybin. 2000. who asks: “Which was more likely to happen first: the spontaneously generated idea of an afterlife in which the disembodied soul. being at one with the universe. Translation is the process of finding words for the experience in the brain in the language which the culture provided. 2001). These experiences are quite different from the hallucinations that produce permanent mental illness. all the scientists report that religious feelings of leaving the body and being at one with the universe correlate quite fully with quieting the proprioceptive processing areas in the parietal lobes of our brain. then we have not so much a justification for the afterlife as an explanation for why the afterlife was located at the end of a heavenly journey.

in 4 Ezra there are three famous other techniques – fasting. in some sense it doesn’t matter whether the culture chooses to mark the activity as directly related to the vision or merely as one of the preparations. The notion that God communicates through dreams is part of the epic tradition in Israelite thought. eating herbs of the field. as the chemicals which the brain uses in the storing of memories are usually noticeably absent at dreamtime. the physiology of dreams suggests that they are not designed to be remembered. the Apocalypse of Abraham. dreams are also specially marked as having a divine origin (Miller 1994. as a RISC. of course. 285–301). 3 Baruch. esp. We can train ourselves to remember dreams. Lastly. We can stimulate that remembrance either directly by waking up during the dream and reciting or writing it down or by consciously or unconsciously making conditions which disturb sleep indirectly – such as by eating too much or little or by praying or otherwise predisposing the dream to be seen in a particular light. that is all that we mean when we say that someone is receiving a dream vision (Proudfoot 1985). like obtaining ritual purity. A person who seeks out a dream and treats it as a revelation is relying on an ordinary reflex of human experience but is choosing to treat the experience as a non-normal state of consciousness and a divine message.21 Fasting is clearly a well-understood technique for achieving RASC. Usually in cultures that posit a non-normal state of consciousness for prophecy. and the journey there would likely dream about the same details. or to subject the dream experience to correction when it goes far from the expected details. Segal shows that the night vision motif is present in 1 Enoch 14.Alan F. As a physical stimulus. oral reporting. correction and literary processes are always available after the fact to censor the dream. One could easily add several other visions to the list. in much the same way that people ordinarily re-edit their conversion experiences over time to bring them closer to expected norms within their community (see Segal 1988: App. and 4 Ezra. and drinking a fiery liquid. being a special characteristic of the E source in the Pentateuch. in short. dreams are a special case in human experience. 3–123). the divine throneroom. the Testament of Levi. 1. pp. the Book of Daniel is probably the source for the notion that revelation could be sought by incubating dreams. fasting. Dreams are very much related to daily experience. several times a night. can bring on vivid dreams and – in people with susceptible – 232 – . which is specifically mentioned at the beginning of the Poimandres. both in content and emotional tone. Dean-Otting herself does not shy from the conclusion that these are characteristics of mystical ascent in Hebrew thought. Now. And since we cannot privilege any sort of experience in our modern world. as well as direct them. Furthermore. Anyone who spent his or her time in careful exegesis of the texts which describe the heavens. We all have them. but without special training we only remember a very few. indeed. like its opposite over-eating. Furthermore.

and my soul fled from me. Also we can note that Daniel receives visions of his head on his bed. This seems like a definite technique of RASC together with the details for recording it. the description of the special diet may imply a specific agent and is. It may be even more. Let us see how the ascent theme works out in Hebrew culture and make some observations about this special kind of “shamanism. Later. the apocalypticist has interpreted the Hebrew word tardemah in Genesis 15. 4:6–7 and the subsequent revelations which are called visions (Hazon 8:1. In the Testament of Levi. Genesis 15 provides the structure of the story. And my spirit was amazed. and jimson weed. the theme of night visions becomes important. I saw in my sleep what I now speak with my tongue of flesh [italics added] and the breath of the mouth which the Great One has given to man (so that) he (man) may speak with it – and (so that) he may have understanding with his heart as he (the Great One) has created and given it to man. it is precisely the kind of formulation one finds in the early parts of 1 Enoch: This is the book of the words or righteousness and the chastisement of the eternal watchers. And behold there was no breath of man. perhaps as in Genesis 28:12. since poppies.Text Translation/Soul Translation dispositions or training – trance and psychagogic states. pace Himmelfarb. a significant part of the fasting regime. for there was no longer strength in me to stand upon the earth. . and fell face down upon the earth. Daniel 7 announces itself as both a dream and a vision. Indeed. which he writes down. sleep falls upon the seer.” As early as Daniel. . In the Apocalypse of Abraham. (1 Enoch 14:2–3) This passage shows that Enoch too receives his ascent vision in his sleep and then communicates it afterward. usually translated as deep sleep. Here. at the very least. and experiences a translation or ascent. marijuana. where “a deep sleep” falls upon Abraham. the seer begins in a scene of great mourning for the destruction of the temple. This compares with the dream of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 2:1. And I became like a stone. And while I was still face down on the ground. (Apocalypse of Abraham 10). in accordance with how the Holy and Great One had commanded in this vision. grow wild everywhere around the Mediterranean. In 3 Enoch. While we do not know whether the plants eaten had any psychotropic or psychedelic properties. as purely a daytime trance.22 His body is completely incapacitated but he sees the arrival of the angel and then uses the sacrificed – 233 – . as well as other psychoactive plants and mushrooms. 10:1). ma’reh. the first vision is accomplished with a spirit of understanding. Both are technical terms for RASC in prophetic literature. The apocalyptic narrator interprets this “deep sleep” as a waking vision: And it came to pass when I heard the voice pronouncing such words to me that I looked this way and that. I heard the voice speaking . .

Vital is visited with a prophetic dream late one Sabbath eve. which is just what his tradition has taught him to expect and just what the apocalypticists of the First Century expected to see. In the dream. soul flight). not the physical stimulus. 2001). the point must be exceedingly clear by now: bidden or unbidden. In fact. he sees a scene from precisely the – 234 – . which was so strongly cited by Himmelfarb as an argument against its presence. which is printed in full – is to be recited by the adept 112 times exactly. repetitious hymn singing is the most important means of achieving the ascent in the merkabah texts. This corresponds to the experience which Hai Gaon narrates in the medieval period. attitude. after weeping over his personal problems. spirit possession. and soul flight are used interchangeably here to indicate that the experience was a RASC. and context – especially when the state is fervently sought. the lengthy keening or lamenting which precedes the vision in 4 Ezra may have already become the physical stimulus for inducing RASC. either described as sung upon ascent. Segal birds to ascend. it is a striking coincidence. in this context. and he further characterizes the physical trauma with a description of a seizure. Weeping and keening and mourning are quite well understood techniques for inducing RISC in Jewish mysticism. dream vision. ecstatic states of this type – RASCs – are common in biblical tradition. or how it could have traveled from its original home. The implicit theory is not so much “rapture” as explicitly RASC or “ecstasy” in its technical sense (extasia = ek + stasis = “standing outside. Of course. Hayyim Vital (1542–1620).” He means this flight to signify a RASC. as it surely is in the later Jewish mysticism. Indeed. Vital sees the throne of the Ancient of Days. It makes sense to think that terminology of ecstasy.23 Differences between RISC and Exegesis as discoverable in Texts But. or given with the direction to be sung in mystical texts. The lack of a specific description of a preparatory inducement.Alan F. This may be loosely called “shamanism” (Davila 1994. although it is not at all clear what this experience has in common with Central Asian shamanism. None of these techniques invariably leads to RASC. as he might have seen any of a number of other things but. the social interpretation of the experience is by far the most important indicator. But the merkabah texts explicitly start the ascent by saying that a certain psalm. as the narrator states that his soul “fled. in fact.” or more colloquially. as in the Arda Viraf Nameh. Himmelfarb accepts the burden of proof for comparison when she compares the visions of the First Century with an important Jewish mystic of the Seventeenth Century. Hymn singing should also be mentioned here as a technique for achieving RASC because hymns are frequently inserted into these narratives. but it may – under the proper circumstances. is neither a fair reading of the evidence nor a bar to the presence of RASC: indeed.

When people deal with texts exegetically in the first few centuries. But even more important is to realize that “solution to personal problems” is a quite modern category that may play no role in the definition of RASC/RISC in the ancient world. what she suggests is possible but it is not the only or even the most logical explanation for a difference between two reports in the same tradition separated by 1500 years. We may doubt that the narrative is a coterminous transcription of the event but the same is obviously true in the Seventeenth-Century case. typology. He suffers the conventional emotional responses of fright and trembling. We simply do not know whether there are any personal elements in 1 Enoch or 4 Ezra because we have no idea who wrote them and only our own deductions as to why they were written. etc.Text Translation/Soul Translation throne tradition which we have been studying. and indeed the rise of specific modern concepts of personality intervene as well. According to Himmelfarb. Historical circumstances themselves. allegory. But. which is first described in Daniel 7: – 235 – . Vital receives reassurance that his personal troubles are over and that he has been elected for divine leadership in place of his rival. What she appears to mean in my estimation is that we have at this moment no way of knowing what kind of personal experience is narrated in them. In 1 Enoch 46. The apocalyptic and pseudepigraphical literature is something entirely different. Analysis of text seems to demonstrate that certain kinds of narration are produced by RISC. Since Vital’s dream has these “intensely personal aspects. He falls on his face until God raises him. the passage of time. Instead. figured as a contemporary record of a vision. we have the description of the divine throneroom. The issue in the ancient world was both personal and social – it was the problem of how God was going to make his justice known when so many evil enemies of God’s people seemed to be in charge. 119–125). What is conventional in the first few centuries seems to me to be something entirely different.” an early text. Himmelfarb suggests there are no such personal experiences in the apocalypses. Josef Karo. Of course. illustrate the point. internalized descriptions of heaven and of God and His court. Three short scenes from the famous “Parables of Enoch. Comparison is a knife that cuts both ways here. to say nothing of the specific history and situation of Seventeenth-Century Safed. not by exegesis of previous texts alone. they normally produce midrash or commentary. they are vivid.” Himmelfarb assumes that the personal detail serves as an indicator that real experience is present. pesher. what sets this vision off as a real experience and shows that the older texts are not is precisely what happens next. They are not exegeses in any of the well-known canons of the first century – midrash. just as is the material in Vital’s dream. many scholars have independently pointed out a distinctly personal voice in the narration of 4 Ezra which appears to learn developmentally (see for example Stone 1990: 30–33. just as the angel raises Enoch.

to whom belongs righteousness. the light of which fire was shining like hyacinth. a dream. Also I saw two rivers of fire. Would it be too much to suggest that the exegete’s own experience in visions or dreams has mediated the previous text and filled in some details? Given the inherent conservatism of exegetical arts. Now we have hidden storerooms and a “Lord of Spirits. and he showed me all the secrets of righteousness. we are not merely given a paraphrase of Daniel but a fairly large expansion including an experience of salvation. and with whom righteousness dwells. It makes no difference whether the intervening experience is a waking vision. And he shall choose the righteous and the holy ones from among (the risen dead). I think it is the most obvious explanation. there is no way to tell whether they appear here because they were personally experienced by the adept. led me out into all the secrets of mercy. In the last example. (1 Enoch 46:3) This passage (and the next too) is manifestly a paraphrase of Daniel 7:13. Sheol will return all the deposits which she had received and hell will give back all that which it owes. Then I fell upon my face before the Lord of the Spirits. shortly after this scene there is a quite interesting expansion on Daniel 12: In those days. Segal This is the Son of Man. But it is not an exegesis of Daniel 7. This is the very famous passage in which Enoch ascends to the throne of the Son of Man and is transformed into him: (Thus) it happened after this that my spirit passed out of sight and ascended into the heavens.” Since these are all conventional items from other texts. seizing me by my right hand and lifting me up. And the angel Michael. He also showed me all the secrets of the extreme ends of heaven and all the reservoirs of the stars and the luminaries – 236 – . for the day when they shall be selected and saved has arrived. But. which is also a feature of Christian documents. And he will open all the hidden storerooms. The proleptic presence of the eschaton. their garments were white – and their overcoats – and the light of their faces was like snow. can be easily explained as being a product of a prophetic RASC in which the anticipated millennium is experienced as already happening in the vision. and he is destined to be victorious before the Lord of the Spirits in eternal uprightness. But it is important to note that the passage is not just a commentary on it. And I saw the sons of the holy angels walking upon the flame of fire. It is not the same as saying the text reflects a RASC.Alan F. a psychagogic state. Enoch uses not only different terms but also new conceptions to describe the scene. (1 Enoch 51:1–3) In this case. experienced proleptically. What matters is that the imaginative act is interpreted religiously. we have yet a greater change from the passage in Daniel 7. or even a daydream. one of the archangels. for the Lord of the Spirits has chosen him.

Gabriel. there is no question but that the text is reproducing the experience of someone who is hiding behind the conceit of Enoch. A whole new character is introduced. it is presented as a RASC. No place in scripture is this made clear. . first-person narration. albeit an antideluvian hero. We have seen that this is the very prophecy predicted by Daniel 12. ten million times ten million – encircling that house. the supposed author. Phanuel. And I saw countless angels – a hundred thousand times a hundred thousand. Although issues of authority dominate earlier texts as well. which Himmelfarb said was absent in this literature. Gabriel. But it is at least a personal. showing us that personal experience is present. 8–11) Here is the same kind of expansion of Daniel which we have just noticed in the earlier passages in the Parables. they are phrased as the personal problems of the narrator. I fell on my face. my whole body mollified and my spirit transformed. Raphael. Enoch. and I Enoch. This does not prove that the expansion was taken during RASC. And it is impossible to derive without adding a new character into the scene. we have a clear example of a future prophecy experienced confessionally as a RASC with the many novelties in the translation. was built in the heaven of heavens . so he is yet another pseudonymous character. He narrates the confessional experience of being transformed into an angel. He now goes to the heavenly throneroom which is described in Daniel 7:13 and testifies that the prophecy of Daniel 12 is starting to happen. of course. Of course. who is serving as the mouthpiece for the innovation. He narrates the scene and discusses his personal feelings in ways which are totally new and foreign to the original Daniel passage. and most obviously for the adept experiencing RASC. To me. go in and out of that house – Michael. he is the same Enoch who is mentioned in Genesis 5. And what he narrates is exceptionally important. And. Thus.Text Translation/Soul Translation – from where they came out (to shine) before the faces of the holy ones. He carried off my spirit. Instead they appear to be issues of the nature of the saved group and their hopes for the redress over the seeming lack of justice in the world. and numerous (other) holy angels that are in heaven above. . as they dominate all religious writing. rather it is the result of a new prophetic insight about the events of the eschaton. Michael. Phanuel. the evidence would be ambiguous as there are no single indicators of RASC. The purpose of the text is theodicy because the expected end will right the wrongs of the present situation. Raphael. especially the personage of Enoch. I see no reason to disbelieve that RASC is part of the religious tradition.24 The conventions of the First Century are very different from those of the Seventeenth. and numerous (other) holy angels that are countless. With them is the Antecedent of Time: His head is white and pure like wool and his garment is indescribable. But what could prove it? Even if we had the adept here for an EEG. The one universal – 237 – . (1 Enoch 71:1– 5. But there is an even more interesting part of the expansion. not of any historical character.

whether it be Josef Karo or the Second Temple administration or stimulated by the shock of the Roman victory over the Jews and their destruction of the Herodian Temple. This is the religious concomitant to Harold Bloom’s notion of the anxiety of influence. with the righteousness of the martyrs rewarded and the sinfulness of the persecutors punished. may conflict in any religious text. and that development. the rules for changing it are not exegetical rules. one characteristic of claiming a special revelation. In those documents. 2 Corinthians 3:18–4:6. for this comes from the Lord who is – 238 – .Alan F. As Himmelfarb has helped illustrate for us. also see Colossians 3:9): And we all. for the expansions go wildly beyond exegesis.25 Paul reveals much about personal mystical experiences in the First Century in his own confessional accounts. They present a further development of the tradition. 1 Corinthians 15:49.” Revealing the contents of heaven. Christos. cristo~). is precisely that it does invoke other. People try to demonstrate that they are not innovating. are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another. even when they manifestly are. as narrated in Daniel 12:2. often by adopting the persona of ancient heroes. whether ecstatic or not. more charismatic sources of religious authority than the literary and exegetical skills which trained religious exegetes claim (Lewis 1971). historical circumstances and individual consciousness. Another imagination is filtering it and changing it in significant ways. The experiences of Enoch in 1 Enoch and the mystical ascenders in the merkabah documents are based on the writings of Daniel and Ezekiel especially. “in Christ” as Christ functions as the human representative of God. Segal in all these texts seems to me to be that every one eventually addresses the issues of theodicy by turning his or her attention to the eschaton or “millennium. beholding the glory of the Lord. which we saw earlier. The large difference between Paul and the Merkabah mystics is that Paul uniquely identifies the angelic figure with the messiah (Christ. is an answer to the question of why the righteous cult members are persecuted. It probably also explains Paul’s use of the language. in turn. but they never seem to neglect this issue. This is probably the confessional experience of becoming a star. which makes it subversive to received authority. All the texts function in other ways too. Obviously. Instead they claim that God has delivered a new insight about His approaching plan of vengeance for the wicked. a major theme is the ascent of the adept where he is transformed into the gigantic angelic figure who embodies the name of God. but on a great many theophany texts as well. with unveiled face. except in scriptural religious terms the anxiety seems to be mostly on the other side – not anxiety in admitting influence but anxiety in admitting novelty. just as in Jewish mysticism. is not easily explainable by exegesis alone. Often Paul talks about transforming the believers into the image of God’s son in various ways (Romans 8:29.

. whether known to us or not. Conclusion This is not a mere novelistic consolation. a word which connotes a metamorphosis into the same person. by the power which enables him even to subject all things to himself. becoming like him in his death. Paul. (Philippians 3:20–21) My little children. . principally symmmorphosis. what is good and acceptable and perfect. with whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you! (Galatians 4: 19) Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind. it is a very potent religious and mystical testimony. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers. acts as a prophet consoling the embittered and small minority. trying to show them why they must hold to their faith in spite of disconfirmation. (Philippians 3: 10-11) But our commonwealth is in heaven. He uses the Greek words for transformation. and may share his sufferings. who is the likeness of God .” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. (2 Corinthians 3: 18–4:6) that I may know him and the power of his resurrection. through His sufferings and death. to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.Text Translation/Soul Translation the Spirit . the Lord Jesus Christ. The seer. But. that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. He sees the process as having begun with the resurrection of Christ and as ending with the eschaton. that you may prove what is the will of God. This confessional experience is a kind of breakthrough of the end-time experience into ordinary life. . who will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body. . to conform or fit in. This is to be contrasted in Romans 12:2 with syschematize. though he also uses metamorphosize and metaschematize to describe the event. and from it we await a Savior. For it is the God who said. which can console but can also propel cult members to action. Baptism and enduring sufferings are what bond the believer to Christ. those who are wise) to angelic substance. “Let light shine out of darkness. (Romans 12:2) Paul says that all believers are being changed into the likeness of the Glory of the Lord. they will all be transformed into angels as they are translated to a better existence. knows that God will continue to justify the righteous because he has already personally felt the beginning of the longprophesied transformation of the righteous leaders (hamaskilim of Daniel 12. soon to arrive. at the eschaton. He foretells that the – 239 – . like the other mystics.

I am suggesting that there are many ways of translating. Translation from one conceptual universe to another is a much more metaphoric use of the term than the simple act of translating the word young woman in Hebrew to virgin in Greek and is even more fraught with misprisions. First it records the heavenly translation of the saints to receive their transformative reward in heaven. The ascents all say that they reveal the secret. I have taken up an inordinate amount of time describing mystical translation. there are even many apocalypses in the later mystical literature. not evident structure of the cosmos. Now obviously this was intended to be a discussion on translation. The first stage is represented by key prophetic texts like Daniel and Ezekiel. Some of the texts imply that they are imparting great secrets. not to the language of fiction and hallucination. the apocalyptic texts. But it is clear that this history gives us a translation process in two respects. They offer religious consolation for a world in which the righteous do not seem to win and they promise far more than the thrill of ascent. in which God appears in a human form. especially one which feels itself poised before the eschaton.Alan F. he is the only named Jewish mystic to give us his confessional and personal experience in about 1500 years. one important way being by confessionally reexperiencing the previous prophetic texts. But calling attention to the relationship between the scholarly interpretive act and the simpler act of finding a good equivalent word in another language does underline that we need to be responsible for understanding the nature of the ancients’ experience. In the later texts we get the confessional experience of the adepts as they develop specific ways to provoke and stimulate these experiences. Paul shows us that apocalypse and mysticism go hand in hand. The stages are not strictly chronological and they overlap a great deal. famous heroes from the biblical past are pictured as uncovering in revelation (apocalypsis) more secrets about these prophetic writings. even if we believe what they tell us is literally impossible. secrets which include the proleptic transformation of believers into the divine or angelic body sitting on the throne. but to the language of the neurological basis of our experiences and a historically developing set of cultural explanations about what these refractory experiences mean. These texts are surely more than imaginative renderings to remedy unsatisfactory daily life. It also illustrates the way in which textual study is translated into confessional mystical experience in a Scriptural community. after outlining some methodological issues in word translation. I am only saying that they may have been mistaken in their physics from our point – 240 – . Segal righteous were supposed eschatologically to be promised unification and transformation into immortal creatures. In the second stage. They are not merely literary appraisals but were meant to be appropriated on a religious level. There are three stages in this little history of RASC in apocalypticism. For us to understand these seemingly impossible experiences we need to translate them from their language of vision.

the soul itself. that is just how they experienced their RISCs. I have also spent some time castigating scholars whose interpretation. Not only does translation to heaven serve as a metaphor for ecstasy. it also illustrates what lies behind the process of biblical language translation. The Bible does not have to be talking about us and our lives. but it seems clear that they were not lying about the nature of their experiences. The process of translation from language to language actually turns out to be a less intense way of doing what the mystics were doing – moving the meaning of texts from one cultural context to another. All the modern scholars would translate dream and vision by their proper names. they would have placed their reductionistic interpretations right into the translation itself. in the nature of the experience being described in the words from a previous time. tropes of a literary genre. are not like us. It is not that these religious texts are actually novels. But in observation of the centuries after Paul it becomes clear that translation to heaven itself serves as the basic language to describe and indicator of the RASC. we ought – 241 – . It is proper to admit that the adepts of the apocalyptic and mystical literature. it is rather that we turn them from religious texts to novels to fit our world. We do it by reading them and commenting on them – different hermeneutics for different people and different times. And if they were still following the conventions of the translation in the LXX or the Targums. They did it by reexperiencing the prophecies in a RASC. in their commentaries. Aware of these massive differences between us and them. heavenly translators who expected to be translated and transformed into angelic creatures in order better to do God’s work in the coming apocalypse. In this case. Yet. they freely reinterpret the terms as signifying novelistic license. Having those expectations. or even symptoms of insanity. So Paul and the prophets become theologians and social reformers to fit our world.Text Translation/Soul Translation of view. the Bible is not self-evidently speaking to us. it is easy to miss the real experience of religiously altered states of consciousness in the texts or to denigrate them because we cannot duplicate the experience. This is a much more complicated case than the Virgin Birth but it is similar methodologically in that relatively innocuous changes in wording – like the difference between vision and hallucination – signal enormous changes in our understanding of the nature of consciousness. Some were mystical voyagers. The past is a foreign land and. those people who formulated these texts. not translation per se seems to me to be faulty. our biblical demogogues aside. all translation is a kind of hermeneutics. In some sense. psychic astronauts. as the two phenomena are highly correlated and the mystics begin to agree on the vehicle of the travel. the reconceptualizing of prior ideas to renew them for new times. Himmelfarb has gotten the problem exactly wrong. even when they believe them to be feigning or fictionalizing these experiences. In a Scriptural tradition like the Bible.

See Kamesar (1990). we should probably suspect a great deal of the Bible. helpful to distinguish between the two in the case in the period we are discussing because we feel that dreams are ordinary experience but can be interpreted as religious (therefore RISC) while we normally feel that visions are altered states of consciousness and therefore RASC. he fell into a trance (ektasis). This now appears to be an overstated conclusion. I would prefer – 242 – . however. but while they were preparing it. which subsequently was published as well. 2. Notes 1. I would be hard-pressed to discover any disinterested notions of truth and falsity in a tradition exegesis. 5. 7. 6. Of course. It is. But in a post-modern world. Instead it outlines a theory of Jewish mysticism which does not include and in fact is hostile to unio mystica. 8. since most of the canon is pseudonymous as well. 3. Notice that Peter falls into a trance in Acts 10:10.Alan F. Phil. Translation is inherently a dangerous process and official Islam avoids the question by eschewing translation entirely. even if we cannot have their experiences and do not wish to emulate them. this distinction is somewhat arbitrary because RASC trances and altered states are complex and socially determined states. 4. Segal to be able to do our relatively modest jobs of translating and commenting on their work with a bit more respect for the high purpose that they set for themselves. indeed. All translations of the Qur’an are called merely commentaries. There may not be any difference between the two phenomena. In Scholem 1956. thesis. From the point of view of brain functioning they may all be simply religiously interpreted states of consciousness. I can understand that scholars of religion once thought that some exegeses were “true” and others “false” in that they conformed to the simplest meanings of the text. Indeed. the first chapter deals with the phenomenon of mysticism in Judaism but it does not address the issues that are central to this discussion. all RASC is in a sense RISC because all states of consciousness are coded and interpreted by the culture. And he became hungry and desired something to eat. The material is from his Oxford D. A proof-text is a Bible citation used to demonstrate the truth of a doctrine and is used especially when scholars want to point out that some new doctrine is opportunistically justified by rereading or reinterpreting a biblical text which originally had nothing to do with it.

Text Translation/Soul Translation to merely to point out which exegeses had societal approval and which lacked it. seems to me best understood as referring to this position. 15. Robert Wilson (1980) brings up the comparative material but is skeptical of its direct application to Israelite prophecy. the summary discussion in Collins 1977. Of course they were but they may not have been ritual events. 13. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD. Instead he tries to develop criteria showing where the evidence may be selectively and carefully appropriated to Israelite cases. and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. it certainly remains useful to describe the counter-cultural religiosity of the 1960’s and 1970’s. that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said one thing. and another said another. we cannot actually tell whether Paul is suggesting that the actual adept cannot tell about the mechanism or whether he is just unsure of – 243 – 9. Culianu 1983. For a demonstration of these issues with regard to magic. See for example. go forth and do so. ‘I will entice him. as I will show. see Segal 1987. For a discussion of the shamanic techniques in healing.’ And he said. And Micaiah said. (Pace Grünwald). for dreams. I am not saying that Castaneda’s work is totally worthless. it is clear that it could not be used to represent the experiences with a typical Yacqui. and also Hanson where he shows that such Hellenistic conventions surely influenced Luke’s descriptions in Acts. see also Lewis 1986. 16.’ And the LORD said to him. On the other hand. and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left. ‘I will go forth. especially 16:6–12. Miller 1994. and the LORD said. the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets. . the LORD has spoken evil concerning you” (1 Kings 22:19–23). it is important to note that Castaneda steadfastly maintained that it was all true. See Kilborne. 11. Himmelfarb is also making an interesting and justifiable claim against other scholars who claim that merely reading the texts was a ritual event in that the texts were performative utterances which brought about ascent in the mind. and you shall succeed. ‘You are to entice him. 14. 10.’ Now therefore behold. 12. “Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne. 17. And. see Kilborne and esp. “the descenders into the chariot” (yordei merkabah ywrdy mrkbh). Even assuming that someone called Don Juan actually existed. ‘By what means?’ And he said. Though everyone thinks that much of it was fictionalized. To be conservative. The term often used to describe merkabah mystics. Himmelfarb’s good point. see esp. ‘Who will entice Ahab. is taken to absurd lengths. of course. saying.

With more time. See more recent studies of consciousness for more plausible explanations: Chalmers. 1998. In its place is the virtually unique benefit of the “Sar Torah. 1997. 18. which Paul describes in some detail. should probably be excluded as an actual technique. I would suggest that Paul is saying that he has experienced the ascent and he does not know whether he journeyed in the body or not. then the hekhalot material is clearly shamanism too. But it is still important to note that the issue of healing is almost entirely missing in the Jewish material. See the reprints of these articles in Smith 2001. 1998 [1991]. 1996. modern Hebrew uses the word to express a drug “high. the Arda Viraf Nameh where the hero takes a potion such as Haoma which results in a long seizure. 23. I cite the “cult” classic: Julian Jaynes (1977) not to agree with his major points but only to suggest various possibilities in the development of consciousness and especially in the imposition of RASC within it. – 244 – . however.Alan F. 1991. but that is a story for another day. Indeed. Rather.” stupor. 19. It is also reminiscent of the famous Zoroastrian ascension text. None of the seers themselves are directed to do this before the vision starts. so it should probably be seen as a specific characteristic of that particular vision. 1969. it occurs within the vision as a magic potion for the purposes of remembering scripture. 21. 24. If I had to wager. When he recovers. It would be interesting speculate about any relationship between this report and Zoroastrian Haoma rituals. 20. Michael Ripinsky-Naxon (1993) adopts a very broad phenomenology as a strategy to define Shamanism. This certainly fits the apocalyptic and mystical evidence in early Christianity and Judaism where some ascents seem to be soul flights whereas others seem to be bodily journeys. Dennett. Segal the report he is narrating. The last report. and anesthesia. If so. Tart. Suffice it to say that these seemingly parenthetical remarks are quite an impressive and unusual pieces of evidence for a particular theoretical moment in Late Antiquity ascent texts. because it is not suggested as a waking technique for achieving RASC. 22. Noerretranders. In some real sense we can say that the New Testament was written to prove that the man Jesus has been translated to heaven to become the second. Dowling. Searle et al. 1996. he relates a heavenly journey. It is from the same root as that of the word used for trance is Daniel 10. young manifestation in the vision and is hence now part of God. I could show that this is exactly the experience behind the early Christian Church’s experience of being in Christ.” the angel who visits the mystic and teaches him magically to remember vast amounts of Talmud. 25.

MT: Scholars Press. pp. The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory. George Jr. 1984. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. Davila. 1989. Chalmers. 1966. “Dreams and Visions in the Graeco-Roman World and Early Christianity. William. Kabbalah: New Perspectives. 1977. The Merkabah in Rabbinic Literature. Missoula. Etzel. Collins. New York: Macmillan. Zen and the Brain: Toward an Understanding of Meditation and Consciousness. David. Cardeña. Dean-Otting. Boston: Little Brown. Austin. Apocalyptic and Merkabah Mysticism. pp. The People’s Religion: American Faith in the 90s. —— Kinds of Minds: Toward an Understanding of Consciousness. 2001. 1996. Creating Mind. Moshe. Prophecy in Early Christianity and the Ancient Mediterranean World. Gallup. Hanson. Tübingen: JCB Mohr (Paul Siebeck).Text Translation/Soul Translation References Aune. Culianu. L. Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Leteratur. Mary. Himmelfarb. Atlantic GA: Scholars Press. David J. Standley. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. 2000. 1988. D.C. Grünwald.” ANRW II 23:2. 1994. and Castelli. Psychanodia I. John S. Leiden: Brill. – 245 – . Daniel C. James R. Leiden: Brill. Ernst. Cambridge MA: MIT Press. New Haven:Yale University Press. 1980. John E. AGAJV. 1983. James H. New York: Verlag Peter Lang. The Apocalyptic Vision of the Book of Daniel. Varieties of Anomalous Experience: Examining the Scientific Evidence. New York: Norton. 1989. 1395–1427. Heavenly Journeys: A Study of the Motif in Hellenistic Jewish Literature. Paulus als Visionär. 1982. Halperin. New Haven: American Oriental Society. Benz. Lynn. 1983. Dennett. Steven Jay and Krippner. Consciousness Explained. Jim. —— The Faces of the Chariot: Early Jewish Responses to Ezekiel’s Vision. New York: Basic. Wiesbaden: Steiner. AOS 62. Dowling. George Jr. Idel. New York: Oxford University Press.: American Psychological Association. “The Hekhalot Literature and Shamanism. 1998. 1998. New York: McGraw-Hill. 1991. Washington. Gallup. 1980. Martha. 1993. Harvard Semitic Monographs 16. —— Descenders to the Chariot: The People Behind the Hekhalot Literature. with Proctor. David J. Adventures in Immortality. 767– 789. Leiden: Brill. 1952. Iaon P. Ascent to Heaven in Jewish and Christian Apocalypses. John J.” Society of Biblical Literature 1994 Seminar Papers.

Adam. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. Michael. New York: Ballantine. “Paulus als Ekstatiker: pneumatologische Beobachtung zu 2 Cor. Tübingen: JCB Mohr (Paul Siebeck). Eugene and Rause. “Dreams. 1991). pp. Albany: SUNY Press. Kim. Monique Layton. D’Aquili. 1987. 14–15. pp. Sydenham. Tübingen: JCB Mohr (Paul Siebeck). Saake. 2002. The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size. Michael A. Why God Won’t Go Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief. Synopse Zur Hekhalot-Literatur. 1982.Alan F. Rowland. 1993. 1984. xii 1–10. 1932. Lewin Hagigah. J. 1984. NovT 15:2. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 2001. as Maerk verden. 1984. Patricia Cox. “A Transparent Illusion: The Dangerous Vision of Water”. Tübingen: JCB Mohr (Paul Siebeck). Rowland. Dreams in Late Antiquity: Studies in the Imagination of a Culture. Vince. 153–160. The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind.” Encyclopedia of Religion. Baltimore: Penguin. Gyldendalske Bokhandel. 1991. Trans. New York: Crossroads. Lévi Strauss. Kilborne. 1986. 1998 (orig. pub. 51–75. Morray-Jones. Religious Experience. Tor. New York: Viking.” In The Open Heaven: A Study of Apocalyptic in Early Judaism and Christianity. —— Religion in Context: Cults and Charisma. —— Der verborgene und offenbare Gott: Hauptthemen der frühen jüdischen Mystik. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Ripinsky-Naxon. “The Virgin of Isaiah 7:14: The Philological Argument from the Second to the Fifth Century. Newberg. Neuropsychological Bases of God Beliefs. Julian. Kamesar. Westport CN: Praeger. 1977. Schäfer. “Towards an Understanding of the Origins of Apocalyptic.” Journal of Theological Studies ns 41. Persinger. Leiden: Brill. Peter. Christopher. 1971. Ioan M. 1985. pp. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Berkeley: University of California Press. Otsar Ha-Geonim ed. trans.” Structural Anthropology. 1981. Claude. Benjamin. In Hekhalot Mysticism: a Source-Critical and Tradition-Historical Inquiry. 1990. 1973. Noerretranders. Segal Jaynes. The Nature of Shamanism: Substance and Function of a Religious Metaphor. Christopher. “The Sorcerer and His Magic. Miller. Tübingen: JCB Mohr (Paul Siebeck). Proudfoot. Lewis. – 246 – . Jerusalem. —— Geniza-Fragmente Zur Hekhalot-Literatur. The Origin of Paul’s Gospel. 1983. Wayne. Ecstatic Religion: An Anthropological Study of Spirit Possession and Shamanism. Teshuroth. Helmut. Andrew.

Ephraim E. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 1980. Wolfsen. Smith. “Hellenistic Magic: Some Questions of Definition. In Hebrew in the Hebrew section of Studies in Mysticism and Religion Presented to Gershom G. 1990. Dennett. Elliot R. Cleansing the Doors of Perception: The Religious Significance of Entheogenic Plants and Chemicals. Prophecy and Society in Ancient Israel. 2001.Text Translation/Soul Translation Scholem. New Haven: Yale University Press. Philadelphia: Fortress. Minneapolis: Fortress. Atlanta GA: Scholars Press. 1969. Huston. (ed. Jerusalem: Magnes. Michael Edward. – 247 – . Fourth Ezra. Robert.” In Other Judaisms of Late Antiquity. Wilson. Segal. New York: New York Review Press. —— Jewish Gnosticism. Exchanges with David Chalmers and Daniel C. New York: Schocken. 1960. The Mystery of Consciousness. Through a Speculum that Shines: Vision and Imagination in Medieval Jewish Mysticism. John R. Gershom Gerhard. and Talmudic Tradition. Brown Judaic Series 127.). “The Traditions about Merkabah Mysticism in the Tannaitic Period”. New York: Penguin Putnam. 1994. Altered States of Consciousness: A Book of Readings. Searle. 1987. Urbach. Stone. Tart. Scholem. —— “Paul’s Conversion. Alan F. 1997. Psychological Studys. Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism. New York: Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Charles T. 1956. New York: Wiley. Merkabah Mysticism. 1988. 1967.” In Paul the Convert.


In parallel with this evolution. was developed during the eighteenth century by such figures as Vico. was being provided mainly by the new discipline of anthropology. The “theory” of this art.1 the Americas and the Pacific in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were not yet “art” but curios without ascertainable meaning. social sciences developed from their original roots in theology and philosophy. like that – 249 – . commentary on exotic objects. The first visually pleasing or intriguing objects brought back from Africa. morality and right thinking. The idea of art. changed to match changes in international relations. Art was expected to uphold public morality by depicting edifying moments from history and mythology. The travelers’ reports that accompanied them. and closely related to it. Their discussions were prompted in part by increasing popular interest in reports from faraway places. and commentaries from Montaigne’s essay On Cannibals to Shakespeare’s The Tempest. mark the beginnings of anthropology. In Europe. Burke. By the mid-nineteenth century. Lessing and Kant. all of whom were preoccupied with the relations among art.” From the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries. the idea of art acquired its modern sense.2 Three centuries later. Civilization and the Idea of Art Much of the talk about what art is and what it means uses the idea of art to campaign for particular definitions of what it is to be civilized.–10 – Structural Impediments to Translation in Art Wyatt MacGaffey As Europe extended its reach around the world from the fifteenth century onward. housed in the new ethnographic museums. beginning in the mid-seventeenth century with the founding of the Royal Academy in Paris in 1648 and the professionalization of fine art (as opposed to the work of artisans) under the control of the state. and the commentaries that elaborated the frames. the reflexive turn in anthropology has led to controversial and still unsettled new perspectives on the means by which objects exhibited in the West were collected. the classical ideal. the categories in which these objects were framed. and how they should be classified and viewed. it recorded its relations with exotic regions in the form of collections of “curiosities. over the same period.

Primitives. has always been most clearly defined by what it is not or. it – 250 – . where the African collection appeared in pseudochronological order after the neolithic exhibit. if by translation we mean to express in our own terms the significance of the objects to those who produced and used them. Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. There was nothing there to translate. “cast the primitive as the dark image of itself” (Connelly 1995: 9). or art of a sort.3 The court arts of the Near and Far East and Peru that attracted attention by their aesthetic qualities were regarded as ornament rather than art because although their makers were credited with imagination they were assumed to be incapable of the kind of transcendent ideas that informed real art and endowed it with meaning. in practice. to which most of the same ambiguities attach as to primitive art. by whatever lack in other people explains the assumed absence of civilization among them.” especially as it was reported from Africa and Oceania. and therefore of the primitive. they produced forms that were either grotesque (lacking discipline) or at best ornamental (lacking narrative). D.C. were supposed incapable of abstraction and lacked any sense of history. The nineteenth-century romantic reaction against the academy and the classical ideal brought about a reevaluation of emotion as against reason. for example. not as art (not even primitive art) but as demonstrations of the absence of civilization among those who produced them. makes use of African masks as “grotesques. not on Polynesian art. “fetishism” was the antithesis of civilization. The classical norm in art. even Gauguin’s “Tahitian” paintings were often based on Egyptian. Much has been made of the interest shown in African objects by Picasso. The type of the grotesque was the “fetish. motivated solely by impulse and emotion. A notorious example was provided until recently by the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History in Washington.5 Objects brought back from colonial empires were housed in the new ethnographic museums. Instead of art. folk art.4 Objects from Africa and Oceania still fell into the category of the grotesque. the possibility that primitive arts were really art. Japanese or Javanese compositions.6 Meaning was assigned to African and Oceanian works lodged in ethnographic collections in terms of the evolutionary assumptions they were called upon to illustrate. for Enlightenment thinkers from De Brosses to Hegel. or invented.” and Picasso famously expressed his lack of interest in the meaning to Africans of their art by saying that the objects themselves told him all he needed to know. Ornament became more respectable. acquired plausibility.Wyatt MacGaffey of the rational. more accurately. as Frances Connelly has shown.. illustrations for an evolutionary narrative. but it was the form rather than the “meaning” of the objects that intrigued them. The last quarter of the nineteenth century also discovered. it was the product of merely random impulses and violated the elementary Cartesian distinction between animate and inanimate beings (Pietz 1985). Modigliani and other artists in Paris a century ago.

identified three critical positions: the romantic. The date of the work does not matter. they were the last areas to be admitted as potential producers of art. in response to collective tradition rather than individual genius. it is the privilege of the collector to discover it (Steiner 1994: 9. The collectors and connoisseurs who constitute the primitive-art market codify tribal styles in order to control “authenticity” and therefore market value. the maker is unaware that his product is art. lower”. are superior to their folk in that their creativity represents the cultural heritage of a nation rather than the unthinking representational habits of the tribe (Ames 1977). before the invasion of corrupting foreign or modern influences. theirs” and “higher vs. often attended by the acrimony appropriate to these and other essentially political matters. supposedly. 44). Africa and Oceania are lumped together only because. that prevailed until recently and have yet to succumb entirely to scholarly challenges. as at the Art Institute of Chicago. Myers. and where. and energized by the desire to control (commercial) value. As Fred Myers observes. however. The history of these evaluations remains fossilized in the categories we find in dealers’ catalogs and the art departments of museums. The constitutive variables of the set are “ours vs. in which the paintings. Art. somehow. a “dark image. The Fine Art of Others is limited. Folk art and primitive art have in common that they are supposed to be produced by ordinary persons whose names are not simply unknown but irrelevant. where. and of “Art” as a whole. created in industrial media rather than with – 251 – . now renamed “Asian. in the twentieth century. except that it should be as old as possible. much of it not even American in inspiration (Janzen and Janzen 1991). When acrylic paintings by Australian Aborigines appeared on the New York art market in 1989. dealers and their allies the critics debated the status to be accorded to them. often considered morally preferable. to Oriental Art. so far.Structural Impediments to Translation in Art consisted of objects identified as art by members of the upper class. the significance of each category.” but the idea of them remained negative. they consider objects made by known and still living individual makers to be inauthentic (Steiner 1994). “the point of the struggle is almost entirely a question of how to represent others” (Myers 1995: 57). in both instances. Whether these contrasts should be drawn. finding himself unexpectedly in an ethnographic role. and they did not incorporate narratives of historical and moral importance. rather than in the list of objects that may or may not be included. are matters of ongoing debate. Primitive Art (sometimes now called “tribal” or “ethnic”) is the Folk Art of Others who lack Fine Art. to “academic art.7 Folk and primitive objects could suddenly be art. Modern studies have shown the error of these assumptions. Our folk. American folk art was often a popular hand-me-down from academic art.” They were produced.” in recognition of the derogatory tenor of the original term. lies in the way it is contrasted with the others. These turns of thought and practice have generated the subdivisions of the general category.

barns. B. Even Malinowski. To convey “their” meanings. anthropology came late to the field. which are ethnographically interesting in their own right (Blier. because by its standards they were no more than second-rate neo-Expressionism. enduring myths. knows what to expect in collections bearing these labels. “Such criticisms. constantly impede the task of translation. our best guide to primitive thinking was the memory of our own childish days. The living quarters are furnished with European paneling and paintings by Rembrandt. though Franz – 252 – . cigar-store Indians. housed in a collection of log cabins. The public. hand-pumped fire-engines and craftsman’s tools. in which they also failed as modern art. folk art or primitive art. “are part of the discursive practices that define ‘high art’”. Objects of each kind are normally housed in museums specializing in them and supported by the corresponding specialized journals and professional associations. even though unable to define art. an enormous and magnificent collection of weathervanes. and the self-described “postmodernist” perspective (incorporating some oldfashioned Marxist rhetoric). for all his insistence on recording “the native’s point of view. Shelburne. From Artifacts to Art Among the commentaries on museum collections. Lewis Henry Morgan’s opinion in 1877 is representative: “All primitive religions are grotesque and to some extent unintelligible”. Degas. country stores and other antique buildings. trade signs. the great age of imperial looting. which denied that the works should be called art at all. Vermont. The idea of art is still critically bound up with the idea we form of civilization. we must first become aware of our own. The constituent categories of the idea of art are found in our discursive categories but are also concretely institutionalized. Tylor’s more charitable view. 1996). in E. including art. In the United States. In the nineteenth century. students of Native America were much more sympathetic to indigenous thought. the modernist. as Suzanne Blier calls them. failed as primitive art because they had been contaminated by Western influence. seashell sculptures. and Monet. In the Shelburne Museum.” denied that native society could have its intelligent members from whom indigenous theories could be elicited. they are also about how we see “ourselves” in relation to “them” (Myers 1995: 81). anthropology still assumed that primitive cultures generated no ideas worth translating (Evans-Pritchard 1965: 105–108). and has been instructed at some level in the nature of the experience they should have when visiting one. and has until recently restricted itself to primitive art. announces the patronage that defines it.” Myers notes. minus original utilities such as the bathroom. quilts. On a hill dominating the scene is a Greek Revival mansion specially constructed to house the New York City apartment of the wealthy collector and her husband.Wyatt MacGaffey vegetable dyes on bark.

anthropologists themselves still tend to reinforce the distorting effects of Western cosmographic assumptions. On the other hand. the use of noble materials. art training is institutionalized in schools. much of it by anthropologists. is essentially different from fine art because it is produced by people with simple technology. Daryll Forde’s symposium on African cosmologies was still greeted with skepticism by British anthropologists.8 In African studies the first attempt to take seriously an indigenous system was Evans-Pritchard’s Witchcraft. Oracles and Magic among the Azande (1937). there is great diversity of art styles. A dramatic increase in prices encouraged the relabeling of more and more types of objects as “art. became a growth industry. whose training is haphazard and who work part-time.Structural Impediments to Translation in Art Boas’ pioneering Primitive Art (1927) was virtually restricted to formal analysis. Primitive art. they were aided by the twentieth-century movements known as anti-art. which challenged those same requirements from within and denied that art should be defined by the “hand” of the artist. artists tend to be full time specialists. or the exhibition of the works in bland and pillared spaces to be contemplated in the quasi-religious silence of “exalted looking” (MacGaffey 1998: 225–7). During the 1960s. In the 1950s. In the course of the struggle. In 1954.”9 Besides reporting ethnographically on the arts of others and the contexts of their production. Anderson’s characterization is explicitly residual: “We need the term ‘primitive art’ because nonprimitive societies typically have art based on complex technology. In short. The founding of the journal African Arts in 1967 and the publication of the symposium Tradition and Creativity in Tribal Art (Biebuyck 1969) marked this new phase. but it was generally assumed that they represented a Mediterranean intrusion into coastal West Africa. and that the works themselves embodied moral and historical themes. that their ateliers produced works commercially for distant markets. the study of art in Africa. it was not until the 1960s that the work of Victor Turner. pioneers such as William Fagg began the critical documentation of African art. as political developments in African colonies tended toward independence. that they were consciously creative and attentive to explicit aesthetic criteria. anthropologists sought admission for primitive art into the exclusive precincts of fine art by arguing that it met the traditional requirements for European art. Luc de Heusch and Mary Douglas made the study of other people’s “meanings” generally acceptable. art styles change rapidly over time” (Anderson 1979: 6). endlessly – 253 – . but attention focused primarily on sculptural forms that corresponded well to the classical notion of representational art. They insisted that the makers of primitive art were admired locally for their individual talent. anthropologists engaged in a prolonged and only partly successful struggle against the invidious distinctions built into the idea of art. linked to rising interest in African objects on the part of art collectors. we are to believe. Bronzes looted from the Benin kingdom by the British in 1898 were the first African objects to be accorded the status of art.

by drawing their attention to extrinsic or anecdotal matters. Traditional views are changing. including anthropologists. In practice. In principle. In his enormous “Primitivism” exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in 1984. In every exhibition difficult decisions have to be made about the amount of ethnographic information to include. in the second edition of his textbook. which seeks to translate the meaning of the objects by means of placards and increasingly weighty companion volumes. “To fear that written or spoken information about the works on display diverts visitors from the works themselves. as Bourdieu reported after an intensive investigation into the experiences of European museum-goers. Presumably. the classes best equipped with such aids as guidebooks and catalogs. and as the rapidly growing field of museum studies reveals the tacit assumptions underlying choices about what to exhibit and how.” but also declared that ethnographic information was irrelevant to the discovery of formal similarities between Western and other artworks (Rubin 1984). is to be unaware that the ideal of – 254 – . individual masters. The debate about how much translation should be added to exhibited artworks is intimately related to class.Wyatt MacGaffey reproducing the same things. are resistant to theory. are most likely to reject the services of professional guides and recorded commentaries (Bourdieu and Darbel 1990: 69). without explaining why (Layton 1991). Opposition continues between the curatorial approach. such as linguistics. emphasizing an entirely visual experience of art. and training programs in the space once occupied by the blandly fallacious construction of the primitive. The result was denounced by critics as an imperialistic expropriation and an attempt to demonstrate the universal inevitability of the modern (Clifford 1988: ch. In the anthropology of art. We can’t help but read them – I defy anyone to ignore writing on walls – and thus are jerked from silent reverie into nattering pedagogy. as recent studies reveal the presence of art schools. and the knowledge of how to use them. More recently. William Rubin set aside any evolutionary connotation of the word “primitive. Knowledge and taste arrange themselves in constellations linked to level of education. Layton restricts the anthropology of art to the products of small-scale societies. those that do venture into theory mostly borrow from other disciplines. even though they do not carry his graffiti about with them. semiotics and philosophy (McNaughton 1993). Schjeldahl hopes that museum-goers will read what he writes. the only theoretical approach worthy of the name is the late Alfred Gell’s Art and Agency (Gell 1998). and the ethnographic approach. Peter Schjeldahl recently reiterated the traditional curatorial view of the war between words and images: “Wall texts are a bane of late twentieth-century museology. 9). art historians. rigorous theory should enable the anthropology of art to transcend its cultural commitments. insisting that they should only gather facts. turning art shows into walkin brochures. however. expressing the eternal but inarticulate ethos of a particular tribe. Art and education are terrible bedfellows” (Schjeldahl 1999: 83).

the eye is guided by the context of exhibition and by abundant verbiage available. The question of interpretation. and representation” (Mitchell 1986: 42). Leading American museums usually include a section of African arts.” in the 1960s. to which the public responded often enough with bewilderment. out of words. and believes that it can exist in and for itself. As Malevich put it in his “Suprematist” manifesto of 1913. its implicit gendering. In practice. The style of the museum’s building and its announcements of the kind of art within go far toward shaping the visitor’s self-definition and his or her sense of the experience to come. Erstwhile “primitive artifacts” are now increasingly being accorded the kind of architectural framing that announces their status as art. though – 255 – . If. it wants nothing further to do with the object as such. It is argued with respect to fine art. thus presents itself in different ways depending on the category of art in question and the social background of the audience. as it has been said. in the presence of the proper ventriloquist – statements about the nature of space. perception. Art came to be more and more an insider’s game. if I may use “translation” broadly to include information concerning the intent of the artist and the accepted evaluations of the work (that is. without things.Structural Impediments to Translation in Art contemplation without words or actions is only characteristic of those who possess the immediate familiarity acquired by the imperceptible training of prolonged exposure” (ibid. in the proper context – that is.: 53). “Art no longer cares to serve the state or religion. “the linguistic nature of art. being an artist came to mean “questioning the nature of art. for them. Reframing Translating art begins with framing and reframing the physical experience of encountering art. Conceptualists such as Joseph Kosuth discovered this. in the museum’s bookshop. art is said to be “about” nothing except itself. and producing innumerable works which “challenged the viewer’s assumptions” about the metapragmatics of the possibility of art. or the translation of meaning and value. anthropology is defined by what anthropologists do. “The colored daubs and streaks on the canvas become. it no longer wishes to illustrate the history of manners. answers to the question “What does it mean?”). literally. If you make paintings you are already accepting (not questioning) the nature of art” (Prinz 1991: 47). In much of twentieth-century art theory. with apparent indignation. They reappropriated art by making it. and the autonomy of the art work itself.” The idea of art as illusionistic representation of something other than itself is replaced by the idea that the experience of art should be a purely visual encounter between the work and the viewer. then art is whatever art critics write about. at a price. which for most people takes place in a museum or gallery.

“Art/artifact” (1988) discussed the careers followed by the objects on their way to becoming “art. Los Angeles). resituating these objects in an alternative category means that visitors arrive with different expectations. according to Enid Schildkrout. dance. The French government’s recent rethinking of the place of primitive arts. in his elaborate presentation of “African Art in Motion” at the National Gallery in Washington D. and conventional. as it was meant to do. textiles and blown-up photographs. “Africa. insisted that African art could only be understood in relation to ritual. the introduction of a small section of “primal” masterpieces in the Louvre. The great collection of art from northeastern Congo acquired by the American Museum of Natural History in 1915. amid intense argument. They objected to the display of cartoon-like popular painting and trade signs – 256 – .C. and for being conventionally ethnocentric. appropriate to art. and the three-dimensional. “Closeup” (1990) explored the tension between the simplifying. and the planned construction of a grand new museum. static.” and the effects of showing them in a variety of display styles. In a series of exhibitions at the Museum for African Art in New York. African studio artists objected to being labeled as “African. Besides showing examples of a wide variety of visually interesting objects. and that the accompanying narrative also changes. Though widely praised. in 1974 (originally at the University of California. led to the massive and controversial exhibit “Magiciens de la Terre” at the Centre Pompidou in 1989. Critics asked whether there is a discrete unity. in 1990 could not have been exhibited as anything else. He violated “fine art” conventions by complementing the objects with continuous audio-visual recordings. and the commentaries attached to them. which could not have been exhibited then as art. but radically different from and superior to whatever Africans have produced and are producing in colonial and postcolonial times. curator of “African Reflections” (Schildkrout and Keim 1990).” aware that the term is close cousin to “primitive” and seems to exclude their work from the dignities of universal art. Reframing extends to the way exhibits are mounted. that the objects are displayed and lit in a different way. the show was also condemned both for overturning traditional categories and perspectives. voyeuristic sense of African sculptures that the camera gives us. replacing the expression “arts primitifs” with “arts premiers” (whose implications are similar!). Robert Farris Thompson. Vogel’s most ambitious venture.Wyatt MacGaffey European museums are still segregated. called “Africa Explores: Twentieth Century African Art” (1991) was intended to challenge the idea of art in Africa as tribal. In a later exhibition in the same locale he was obliged to revert to a more restrained curatorial style and relegate his commentaries to an accompanying volume (Thompson and Cornet 1981). performance-oriented nature of the pieces themselves. Susan Vogel experimented with different perspectives. and bodily gesture. Vogel sought new lines of critical thinking about African artistic production.” the qualities of whose products could be independently discussed.

The complete penetrative grasp of a text. George Steiner begins his book on language and translation with critical interpretations of passages from Shakespeare. on the other hand. we should add. the disciplinary boundary is no longer clear. but good ones are best regarded as works of art in their own right. . Translations are always approximate. Fundamentally.” although the contributors now often include specialists in history.Structural Impediments to Translation in Art (not unlike those one can see at the Shelburne) as equally “African art” alongside the products of studio artists. although the latter’s product will inevitably fall still further short of “completeness”. Like other art. that African artists and critics would have any less difficulty than Aborigines do in translating their meanings across categories and preconceptions to a foreign audience. philosophy and other disciplines. art in Africa is an experience of certain objects. Translating The hefty volumes that accompany recent exhibits include essays which. Jane Austen and Rossetti. argument itself. despite Steiner’s confident use of the word “complete. however. including for example the Admiralty’s Dictionary of Naval Equivalents. is closely similar to that of the ethnographer. which helps us to understand The Wreck of the Deutschland (no such sophisticated tools are available to most ethnographers). literature. And. “these are externals. impossible to replicate. the comparison is explicit in Fernandez’ approach to the Gabonese cult of Bwiti as an imaginative constellation of images comparable to Coleridge’s poem. is an act whose realization can be precisely felt but is nearly impossible to paraphrase or systematize” (Steiner 1975: 25). But. not just the objects themselves. besides challenging the enduring myths. And some denounced the ethnocentrism of the entire project. . Even within one language. Such commentary is traditionally “anthropological. Modern-art historians working in Africa usually engage in extended fieldwork in the anthropological manner. but may be aided by the fact that the art works are there to “speak” for themselves. the arguments are political. which they saw as raising traditionally Western issues and selecting its own answers. as Steiner describes it. says Steiner. complement the visual experience by ethnographically based interpretations of the works. showing how much interpretation is needed before the modern reader can come close to the resonances the texts may have had for their original audiences. the complete discovery and recreative apprehension of its life-forms . and it is not to be expected that any translation will earn consensus. Translation in art resembles any other.” The task of literary interpretation. meanings vary in time and space. It is not clear. He goes on to list the lexical aids available to the student of English literature. forces reconceptualization in the current political context. Kubla Khan (Fernandez 1982: 9–11). The answer to the question “What does this mean?” must begin – 257 – .

museums and galleries are ideally open to everyone. have not yet established a satisfactory vocabulary to designate such “otherness. the military and the judicial system. are respected and visually powerful – the experience of the objects. African ideas of knowledge are more realistic: knowledge that is free and open to everybody is not worth having. African “art”. business. and by the practical needs of government. questions about who did or should have known what.” But her many years of research have led her to the uncomfortable knowledge that Baule categories of objects and experience are so different from those of the culture to which the book is addressed that no direct translation is possible. On the other hand. such as that of privacy. Anthropologists. practices and symbols resemble those of the corresponding institutions elsewhere. devoted to Baule art from Côte d’Ivoire. and when. Whereas the classical function of art was to brag abut power. all countries in the world today incorporate a “modern” institutional sector whose buildings. and probably includes museums and possibly art schools.” Vogel found that in order to understand Baule art she was obliged to explore lived facts of Baule existence. “‘Art’ cannot be described from a Baule point of view at all. for example. This idea is necessarily contradicted by others.” Seeing and Not Seeing The concept of a “show” or exhibition creates the first problem. Susan Vogel says that if she had written it earlier she would have used the language of art history to present the objects as Baule “art. the divide between Native America and the dominant sector). African art is more likely to hint at it. and should be available only to specially qualified persons. is traditionally the subject matter of anthropology. In art. This institutional plurality (in the United States or Canada. like artworks elsewhere.C. It creates translation problems of another order than those of the distance between Shakespeare’s England and George Steiner’s. simply because their view does not include ‘art’ in the Western sense of the word.. to which everybody should have access. real knowledge is dangerous. – 258 – . The dominant Western idea of knowledge since the Enlightenment is that it is a public good. dominate discussion and political conflict. in rituals and sumptuary displays. as Mary Nooter put it in the title of an exhibition and the accompanying book devoted to this topic: the visible functions to keep the invisible invisible (Nooter 1993). from which it is believed that profound though unspecifiable benefit can be derived.Wyatt MacGaffey with statements that – though the objects. draws attention to the necessary boundaries of knowledge by concealing as well as revealing. In the book accompanying her most recent exhibition. objects are displayed in them in ways favorable to exalted looking. to their own considerable embarrassment. or between Norwegian and Italian. in Washington D. on the other hand. is likely to be very different from that of the museum or gallery.

is to insist that the visible object is sufficient unto – 259 – . matching her steps with the drum rhythms. govern people’s reactions as much as any visible motifs (Drewal 1977). Other artworks may be seen only by initiates. using a prescribed type of wood obtained from the forest in a prescribed fashion. What matters may not be what the thing looks like. amid noise and dust. as does the Yoruba mask Eyánlá.Structural Impediments to Translation in Art including many.” After creating the expected effect. but nobody would “look at” one (Vogel 1997: 92). “swathed in white. which is carried in an almost horizontal position and largely obscured by a long white cloth. she believes. What Are We Looking At? The next problem is to label the object. the elders of the cult flock around her to limit the audience’s view of the headdress. for no one must gaze on the face of the mother. and fastidiously preserved by an appointed official. which is not a seat but a repository for the king’s spirit. “neither approach is wrong. When not in use. but many objects now collected as art would otherwise have been thrown away after use. which otherwise is just a piece of wood. the Eyánlá mask is kept partially or completely concealed. is only rarely brought out (Roberts and Roberts 1996: 154). . an African art object may be returned to its special place. the less it is displayed. slow dance. . when at home. An African object that becomes art in a museum does not. but neither is complete” (Vogel 1997: 17). the medicines. When the carver has completed it. the elders apply medicines to empower the mask. as we have seen.” such a stool. but what it does. it dances. or only by men.” that seem to have nothing to do with artworks but are just as relevant to them as Baule ontology and spiritual beliefs. who comes in total darkness . or even “who it is. “The more important a Baule sculpture is.” As she moves in a gentle. parallels rather than substitutes for the appreciation of Baule work that can be developed from the perspective of Western museum culture. described by Henry Drewal: “Preliminary masqueraders prepare the entrance of Eyánlá. the great mother. The result of this exploration. Africans may conserve but do not “collect” their art and – so far from being trapped in tradition – make a point of freeing themselves from the dictates of the copy (Strother 1998: 31). such as “food and eyeglasses. just as in public debates the most senior and respected people speak the least” (Vogel 1997: 108). The much-admired “caryatid” stools of the Luba in Congo are owned only by kings and spirit mediums. It may rush past in deliberate obscurity. stay put to be contemplated in silent reverie. The relationship between words and images is a vexed question with a long history in Western art. The tendency in twentiethcentury art. Baule may admit to having “seen” such sacred things as a men’s mask. which it is the function of the mask to hide.

The way of every nkisi is this: when you have composed it. we may require our translation to include a certain number of terms regarded as essential to “meaning” but also as “untranslatable. KiKongo: In my country there is a nkisi called Na Kongo. To look after their owners and to visit retribution upon them. and it includes disputable and perhaps tendentious glosses such as “taboo. W. to benefit. which makes all the difference between Beatrice Cenci the Day Before her Execution and the same painting if it had been entitled Young Girl with Hay Fever (Mitchell 1986: 40). Reading the translation does not lead to an immediate and profound understanding of what nkisi means to KiKongo speakers. as curator of an exhibition of Kongo objects formerly known as fetishes. Labels referring to fetishes. herbs and leaves. I decided to use the indigenous term for them throughout. other minkisi have these powers also. and those who harbor witchcraft powers. Reacting against this estrangement. art historians bothered by the derogatory connotation of “fetish” began to use the term “power-object” instead. fertility cults or ancestor worship fit in with popular notions of the “spirituality” of “simple societies” but are often at best half-truths reiterating evolutionary assumptions in updated form. T. to kill. Mitchell quotes Mark Twain on the power of the label. and to make a profit. a structure of relations in the target language which is allegedly analogous to a structure in the original. These are the properties of minkisi. and also to remove it. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. conceptual or practical equivalent in English. a water nkisi with power to afflict and to heal. to cause sickness in a man. African cultures generally make no distinction between the natural and the supernatural. those who steal by sorcery. observe its rules lest it be annoyed and punish you. Also to oppress people. but does not participate in it. conjuration and consecration. They receive these powers by composition. in fact. To impose taboos on things and to remove them. To destroy. the physical and the spiritual (Wiredu 1992: 324–5). They are composed to visit consequences upon thieves. but in fact commentary has always been an essential adjunct of the artwork. subsequently used by European philosophers such as Hegel to characterize their idea of the absence of civilization. but it does prepare – 260 – . They are composed of earths. and of relics of the dead. J.” itself a word with a certain imperial history. It knows no mercy. As African art and religion came to be better known in the late twentieth century. A translation is a metaphor. Portuguese and Dutch sailors and merchants gradually adapted an illdefined Portuguese term that became not only the word “fetish” but a whole theory of African culture. ashes. They are composed in order to relieve and benefit people. not Kavuna’s own. This text shows clearly why nkisi has no verbal. The first thing visitors encountered was a photograph of Simon Kavuna and the translation of a text written by him in 1915 in his own language. witches.Wyatt MacGaffey itself.” At the National Museum of African Art in 1993. The translation is mine.

Having identified the object. The last expert to be consulted is the sculptor who will make a mask consistent with the dance and the theme of the song that accompanies it. that it has suffered damage in the process of collection. Having worked out the steps. – 261 – . the object. In her recent research on the makers of masks among the BaPende of Congo. that it was taken out of a more extensive material apparatus.10 Since the exhibition. Strother says. if these conditions are not met. the role to be played by the wearer during a masquerade” (Mulinda 1995: 158). nganga. to provide acoustic and visual enhancement of the dancing body (Strother 1998). The performance itself had aspects of entertainment or commemoration. How many such terms (and their interrelations) are to be incorporated? Should I oblige my reader to get used to not only nkisi but also nsiku. kindoki and more? A fully metonymic “translation.” is “vain. An nkisiobject is only potent when the rules it imposes on those associated with it are being observed and while the expert for whom it was composed is still alive. the originator seeks out competent drummers with whom to develop the rhythms. contextual information such as the object’s ritual use or the mythology associated with it may be considered but only as a supplement. but may well have been expected primarily to make something happen. Africans may well reverse the order of priority. as it may eventually be displayed on the wall of a museum. is only part of a costume intended. much of which did not look like art to the collector or which did not lend itself to transportation. Zoë Strother found that the making of a mask always begins with the idea for a dance. the masquerade performance centers on a dialogue between drummer and dancer. we will probably have to explain that the thing on view is only a reduced version of the original. even though it retains all of its necessary constituents and is therefore physically identical to the connoisseur’s “African artwork. from which all else follows. through a proverb. The museum or curatorial approach characteristically focuses on the merit and authenticity of the portable and saleable object. would necessarily be written in the original language and thus fail completely – except perhaps as an insider’s joke. The wooden mask itself. in the same way that a photograph of a famous photograph can be presented as a work of art in its own right.” continuous with the original.” “empty” (mpamba) and of no particular interest. that it perhaps was never sufficient unto itself but was something like a stage prop in a performance that the viewer will have to imagine. the KiKongo term has been widely adopted in other exhibitions and commentaries dealing with Kongo art. A Kongo authority says of Kongo Ndunga masks that the carved wood part “is clearly incomplete and devoid of meaning unless we take account of many additional elements that specify and dictate. transportation. translation may have to explain that the forces to be manipulated have no direct equivalents in the viewer’s experience or vocabulary.Structural Impediments to Translation in Art the reader to interpret further information more thoughtfully. and storage.

finding that both kinds are “powerful systems for naturalizing social and cultural difference by making it seem natural and inevitable” (p. but they are not portraits of any particular woman. Eyánlá is a bold. In short. whose relations are at issue in the cult. the details of which it is composed include a checklist of the restrictions and procedures to be observe when it is invoked (MacGaffey 2000: 113). The female figures in Luba stools. it has not been collected as art because it is heavy and ordinary to look at. are those of ideally beautiful women. and suggests by analogy that she mediates between this visible world and the more powerful world of spirits. An anthropomorphic nkisi. standing for a complex of ideas about kingship and its secrets. with threatening arm upraised and bristling with nails. that is. can take many forms. and the long white cloth symbolizes the unity and prosperity of the community. Though sculptors are perfectly capable of carving likenesses. Representation. A large rock in Lower Congo “is” (represents?) the late chief Me Mbuku Mbangala in his new role as a simbi spirit because it marks his presence at a particular place.” The relatively large size of the mask indicates its importance. The object in its original context may have been “read” as much as it was “seen. and is always selective (Gell 1998: 25–26). The “beard” is no ordinary beard. however. flat “beard. the prominence of the forehead suggests that it is swollen with spiritual force. These are brief quotations from elaborate Pende theories relating appearance to personality. Pende sculptors made it clear to Strother that good sculpture abstracts from the physical appearance of real individuals to express deeper truths. They choose to emphasize the projecting ridge over the eyes in a male face. Drewal says that the names of the empowering medicines applied to Eyánlá may have double – 262 – . the words that give meaning are “built in. particularly after the discovery of vanishing-point perspective.Wyatt MacGaffey Representation Classical European art. consisting of a head with a long. which Strother compares at some length to Western physiognomies. The upper lip is triangular. it indicates the ambiguous otherness of the mother. . the viewer of objects now exhibited in a museum who seeks to understand them must be prepared to deal with complex codes relating to essence rather than appearance. with few (and debatable) exceptions they have avoided doing so until recent times. . transforming it into a bulging protrusion visible from a distance. “The mouth of a man must be like an angry person . women have lowered lips” (Strother 1998: 133–35).” Much of the critique directed against primitive art held that it represented reality incompetently. is not a portrait of a punitive force but a visual statement of the relationship between that force and the unknown individual against whom it is to act. she embodies both genders.” In certain kinds of African art. who “possesses two bodies”. 106).” quite apart from songs sung and stories told in accompaniment. but its function is similar to that of an nkisi which might be so collected. took pride in its “realism. simple shape.

Kukubole. provide a relatively sympathetic and receptive audience for the translator. opposed and eventually changed by political action. Museum studies today pay much attention to the ways in which guiding narratives are implicit in the museum itself and the selection of the objects. It is still not fully resolved that “fine art” is not exclusively the product of Western or “modern” society. Anthropologists. Impediments to translation in art include the art idea itself. translators still face the basic anthropological problem that societies (by definition) vary in their institutional structure – that is. but those that were would have more than a visual impact on native speakers. For example. maintained. and that little-known cultures are as full of interest as others.Structural Impediments to Translation in Art meanings. In the present context. the accompanying narrative is now likely to argue for their artistic value. When the objects come from some other society altogether. translation and retranslation. Art attracts a wider public than most ethnography (the number of museumgoers rises by the millions every decade). although the public may not have been aware of it. dust from the road induces target persons to go in a particular direction (Drewal 1977: 77).” can also be translated “come down join us”. but most people are not anthropologically trained. whereas a century ago they would have been presented not as art at all but as evidence of the superiority of the society that had acquired it. Many of the medicines in a Kongo nkisi are included on the same principle. including critical commentary. narratives about fine art have conveyed the message that great art is almost exclusively the work of men. If elements of chauvinism. recent books and exhibitions have been devoted to exposing and rewriting this story. who know about this sort of thing. Conclusion The work of translating art (endowing an object with an enabling narrative) takes place at several levels. and therefore presents anthropologists and other translators with a special opportunity to show that exotic arts are more than curiosities. the principal relevant difference lies in the way objects destined to be set apart as sacred (because instrumental in maintaining social values both central and contested) are produced. which contains a set of invidious moral distinctions closely related to the ideological functions of art in modern society. experienced and conserved. racism and condescension should be eliminated. who may then be able to discuss with them his or her best understanding of the subtle congruences and noncongruences between Baule or Yoruba values and more familiar ones. The narrative is also likely to dwell on the history of the more or less violent ways in which many of them were acquired. the way they are organized to carry out basic social functions. Such distinctions are created. not all of them would be visible. “dust from the road. If the – 263 – .

was inaccessible to scholarship. 1923). Museum für Völkerkunde. The Ethnological Society of Paris was founded in 1839. is believed by those who hold it to be generous.Wyatt MacGaffey power of the artwork as presented sufficiently motivates the viewer to take time for words. 2. close to nature. and whatever other aspects of the cultural context are relevant to reach some understanding of what it meant to those who produced it.” 3. Berlin. .” which beyond a certain point rejected instruction. 4. still widely held. definitive. I have given brief samples from a rich recent literature on African art. superficial and extraneous (Robbins 1976: quoting a critic in the New York Times. 1868. . Harvard.” Curios are now produced in large quantities for tourist and foreign markets and sold under such names as “international culture. nor meant to be. Museums devoted to ornament and design. 6. remained primitive and therefore retained basic ideas which were not frittered away by the invasion of the supplementary. were originally ridiculed. Notes 1. They are helping to deconstruct the category itself. It is very much as if children played at pirates or detectives till they no longer knew where play acting ended and reality began” (Gombrich 1995: 43). The fifteenth edition of Gombrich’s The Story of Art still tells us that tribesmen “sometimes live in a kind of dream-world in which they can be man and animal at the same time . most of my examples in this chapter will refer to African objects and the ways in which they have been presented. in Moby Dick. This romantic view. mentions “’balmed New Zealand heads. Human beings. 5. Japanese artists. Trocadéro – 264 – . were described in the late nineteenth century as childlike. were also imported as curios and exhibited in various entertainments and museums right through to the end of the twentieth century (Lindfors 1999). 1866. but which are helping to demolish earlier views of primitive art still entrenched in the minds of all too many people. Herman Melville. and incapable of abstraction (Connelly 1995: 15). “Negro art” from Africa was valued by some in the 1920’s because of the supposed limitations of “the Negro mind. Since I am by profession an anthropologist specializing in Central Africa. the Peabody Museum. how it was made and used. commentary can explain what kind of object this is. alive and dead. though in fact it is patronizing. great curios you know. a stage in an ongoing ideological process. 1878. of course. from works that are not. incredibly. such as the one that became the Victoria and Albert.

J. In this way the ethnographic text “at least provides in toto a chunk of something of a descriptive backing so the term can denote for the reader who makes it to the end” (Michael Silverstein. New York: Basil Blackwell. F.). R. . D. “The good ethnographer must . The Sleep of Reason: Primitivism in Modern European Art and Aesthetics.” In Beyond Necessity. Ardener. Tradition and Creativity in Tribal Art. 1995. and hope that by applying enough of them. A work with meaning was one that can be interpreted as representing some object or idea. Belgium. the first as an illustration to an article only in 1972. The Predicament of Culture.Structural Impediments to Translation in Art Museum. The Voice of Prophecy and Other Essays. F. use categories and labels in an ambiguous manner . Berkeley: University of California Press. 1898. Anderson. 1989. S. Cambridge. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press.” In Africa: Art of a Continent. the first version of the Congo Museum in Tervuren. Winterthur Museum. Outstanding examples of Kongo “nail fetishes” (nkisi nkondi) now sell for upwards of one million dollars. Primitive Art. Chapter 3 in this volume). K. 1927. 1977. folklore societies were founded in Britain in 1878 and in America in 1888. Biebuyck. 1979. (ed. The Love of Art: European Art Museums and their Public. . Art in Primitive Societies. New York: Guggenheim Museum. S. . – 265 – . 9. . Curry suggests that perhaps the best definition of “American folk art” is that it is stuff collected as such in the early twentieth century by people with certain attitudes (Curry 1987). “The Paradox of Folk Art. Clifford. Connelly. and A. New York: Prentice-Hall. “Enduring Myths of African Art. Blier. The first picture of one in the journal African Arts appeared in a commercial advertisement in 1968. Darbel. MacGaffey 2000: 50). The term “folklore” itself was coined in 1846. 8. 1969. References Ames. P. 7. MA: Harvard University Press. New York: Dover. Bourdieu. Stanford: Stanford University Press. 1988. he will enable the reader to create from their elements new combinations that will be closer to the ‘native experience’ being recorded” (Ardener 1989: 94. L. E. Boas distinguished art from decoration by the presence of meaning. Paris (now the Musée de l’Homme). 10. 1996. Edwin Ardener called this approach in translation the method of language shadows. realistically or symbolically. 1990 [1969]. Boas.

Robbins. R.). E. B. R. London: Oxford University Press. Mulinda. Fernandez. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. W. Roberts (eds. L. “‘Magic or. 1999. 1991. and J. MacGaffey.” In The Scramble for Art in Central Africa. “Folk Sculpture without Folk. 545–67. Nooter. D. Lindfors. Kongo Political Culture: the Conceptual Challenge of the Particular. “The Problem of the Fetish. 1995.” Cahiers d’études africaines 17(4). Keim (eds. 1998. as We Usually Say. 1993. R. 1991. Mennonite Furniture. Myers.Wyatt MacGaffey Curry. E. Oxford: Clarendon. Art Discourse/Discourse in Art. MacGaffey. T. New York: Columbia University Press. M. 1995.C.” In Folk Sculpture USA. H. Witchcraft Oracles and Magic among the Azande. 147–59. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Ideology. K. “Art and the Perception of Women. R. African Art that Conceals and Reveals. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1977. 1995. H.). H. – 266 – . PA: Good Books. Zaire. Evans-Pritchard. pp. 1985. New York: The Brooklyn Museum. W. Intercourse.” In Objects: Signs of Africa. pp. Marcus and F. Hemphill (ed. Bwiti: An Ethnography of the Religious Imagination in Africa. Janzen.” In The Traffic in Culture. London: Phaidon. (ed. and A.” In An American Sampler: Folk Art from the Shelburne Museum. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Drewal. J.” RES 5 (Spring 1985). Art’: a Framework for Comparing African and European Art. Layton. 5–17. Washington. “Representing Culture: the Production of Discourse(s) for Aboriginal Acrylic Paintings. Iconology: Image. E. McNaughton. Africans on Stage. Secrecy.). “Theoretical Angst and the Myth of Description.” African Arts 26(4). Text. New York: Museum for African Art. Gombrich. E.). Mitchell. D. G.: National Gallery of Art. “Masks as Proverbial Language: Woyo. J. Gell. The Story of Art. N. Pietz. J. 82–84. “Rose-colored Glasses: Looking for ‘Good Design’ in American Folk Art.W. Roberts. A. P. Memory: Luba Art and the Making of History. Prinz. F. 14–23. 1991. 2000. 1982. F. Tervuren: Musée Royal de l’Afrique Centrale. Myers (eds. I. M. pp. W. W. New Brunswick NJ: Rutgers University Press. 1987. H. De Heusch (ed. 1996. Schildkrout and C. 1965. H. pp. 1998. Oxford: Clarendon. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 1976. M.). The Anthropology of Art. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.). B. W. 1993. Art and Agency: an Anthropological Theory. 1937. 1986. New York: Museum for African Art. A. D. Janzen. P. E. —— Theories of Primitive Religion.

– 267 – . “Springtime for Kiefer. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1984.Y. African Art in Transit. Primitivism in Twentieth Century Art. Inventing Masks.). Steiner. 1992. S.” The New Yorker.C. G. R. 1985. S. and J. “Baule: African Art through Western Eyes. W. pp.” In The Surreptitious Speech. Schildkrout. Jr. Cornet. 1990. January 18.). New York: American Museum of Natural History. Mudimbe (ed. Objects and Others.). 1997. “Formulating Modern Thought in African Languages: Some Theoretical Considerations. Z. New York: Museum of Modern Art. (ed. New York: Oxford University Press. 1975. and C. Thompson. Stocking.: National Gallery of Art. Steiner. V. Wiredu. The Four Moments of the Sun. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. 1994. 1981. Keim (eds. (ed. Strother. 64–77. Schjeldahl. New York: Cambridge University Press. C. W.). 1998.Structural Impediments to Translation in Art Rubin. Beyond Babel. Vogel.” African Arts 30(4). K. African Reflections: Art from Northeastern Zaire. B. P. G. F. Washington D. E. 1999. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


Morgan returned to the topic of missionaries working among Native Americans. some ethnographers. 134). considered the quality of the translation of the terms from the original language into their English equivalents.–11– Are Kinship Terminologies and Kinship Concepts Translatable? Abraham Rosman and Paula G. – 269 – . did the bulk of their research in Pidgin English (Tok Pisin) rather than in the native language of the people with whom they worked. they are better able to recognize such systems in other cultures and they become aware of the fact that these systems differ from their own. However. Only Morgan and Malinowski. Morgan understood that if people recognize that in their own culture the kin terms that they use form a system. The kinship terminology plays a crucial role in understanding how a kinship system is organized. while others were obtained by American missionaries and consular officials overseas. in the section on Ganowanian kinship terminology. The problem. For example. Kinship terminology is a system of classification. Comparative studies of kinship by anthropologists in the nineteenth century assumed that kinship terminologies could be freely translated from one language to another. he noted they had difficulty in filling out the schedules. Lewis Henry Morgan’s monumental study of kinship terminologies. was that missionaries did not know their own kinship systems and even after it was explained to them. as we shall point out below. some of which he himself collected. Rubel The study of kinship systems has been central in the development of anthropological theory. was based upon schedules of kin terms. Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity in the Human Family. The principles by which it is organized frame experience. and this time he was critical of them. rarely discuss the degree of control that they have over the languages spoken in the area where they have done their field work. Comparativists from Morgan to Murdock have used kinship terminologies which others collected without questioning their accuracy. nor do they deal with the question of how they have handled translations. the radical differences between our system and that of the Indians created additional difficulties (Morgan 1871: 133. Initially Morgan praised the work of the missionaries because they resided for longer periods of time in distant places. as Morgan saw it. Though they often resided for fifteen or twenty years among Indians and had extensive knowledge of the language. in their ethnographies. Ethnographers. working in Papua New Guinea.

the failure was nearly complete” (1871: 6). . rather that a white interpreter well versed in the Indian language” (Morgan 1871: 135). . In his charts. he presented a series of “propositions” which were said to characterize all of the “nations” in the Ganowanian family with the exceptions presented (Morgan 1871: 145ff). The basic framework which organized the research described in Systems of Consanguinity was a linguistic one. who spoke English even imperfectly. he is implicitly assuming English kinship usage as the basis for his evaluation. According to Morgan. ah-h. It is interesting to note that when Morgan calls these deviations. such individuals can also have problems in translation because of their own situation and their particular relationship to their American Indian culture. This represents Morgan’s attempt to map the native system on to our own system. some of whom had received some schooling. “Knowing their own method of classification perfectly. father. Though the state of linguistic research on Native American languages was embryonic in Morgan’s time. . groups together into larger families. He states. Rubel When Morgan collected information himself.g. Below the heading are the native terms for a series of different “tribes” or “nations” which Morgan. instead of the Crow term for “father. his examination of what he called Ganowanian “structure” verified these propositions. “. Morgan saw linguistic relationships as an indication of a historic relationship.Abraham Rosman and Paula G. its equivalent in our kinship terminological system. were able to provide him with precise information enabling him to trace out the system in minute detail. However. the informant gives back the terms “father’s sister’s son” in the Crow or Choctaw language. in contrast to the use of a descriptive term. . After the column for each native term there is a column labeled “translation” which contains the English translation. Mexico and Central America. “It will thus be seen that to obtain their system of relationship it was far preferable to consult a native Indian. particularly “half-bloods” (his term).a.” In Crow kinship terminology. he found that many Indians. However. For example. in his discussion. is used for one’s father and for one’s father’s sister’s son.g. e. the philological work that had been done on these languages provided him with his table of organization. South America. Each column is headed by a kin term described descriptively.. Morgan recognized a number of deviations from these propositions including the absence of “aunt” and “uncle” terms among the Crow. when the differences of language were too great. Though diplomats were able to procure information on the “Aryan” family for Morgan. son. such as in Africa. Using the descriptive term was the common “mistake” made in the diplomats’ schedules. e. cousin. Morgan arranges the two hundred odd kinship terms in vertical columns.” they were the most reliable translators (Morgan 1871: 134). father’s sister’s son. and much better than we do our own . he does not discuss the “deviation” in which father’s sister’s – 270 – . In that situation. the same term.

this method “. Rivers was aware that the possessive in Melanesian languages takes two forms. His article entitled. husband and wife” (Rivers 1968 [1910]: 97). enables one to deal with translation in a more global fashion. that these five statuses or positions are recognized universally. nowhere in the text is there any indication that Morgan recognized that these two groups of tribes had the same structure of kinship terminology. 107). used for parts of the body and for – 271 – . are only able to visit savage or barbarous peoples for comparatively short times. The more general form is inalienable possession. which we would today call “Crow”. “The first point to be attended to is that. times wholly insufficient to acquire that degree of mastery over the native language to enable it to be used as the instrument of intercourse” (p. Child. . Rivers. which we now call Iroquois or Dravidian. his informant.Are Kinship Terminologies Translatable? son is called father not only for the Crow but also for the southeastern tribes like the Creek and Cherokee. these two groups of tribes are next to one another in Morgan’s chart. The method which Rivers used to gain information on the kinship terminology was to “. As Rivers explains. and complete pedigrees can be obtained when the terms are limited to the following: father. child. . like myself. “The Genealogical Method of Anthropological Inquiry” presented a method of collecting kinship terminology which became the standard for future generations of field workers. ask my informant the terms which he would apply to the different members of his pedigree [genealogy]. a structure different from that of the Dakota and Iroquois. there are several points implicit in his discussion. and therefore there will be terms for them in every language. This presupposes that the child everywhere is born from two parents. 100). One is the assumption that the five minimal terms given above (Fa. . in the article. to elicit his genealogy or “pedigree. However. which is shared by several tribes. R. first described the way in which he collected the genealogy of an informant from Guadalcanal. and reciprocally the terms which they would apply to him” (p. owing to the great difference between the systems of relationship of savage and civilized peoples. was more particularly useful to those who. As Morgan notes above.1 As Rivers noted. Though Crow and the Southeastern tribes had been placed in different branches or dialect groups. Hu. mother. using the five minimal terms. Though Rivers does not deal directly with the question of the translation of kinship terminology. Rivers at the turn of the century made very significant contributions to the study of kinship. Mo. W. probably as an indentured laborer. H. .” and then to obtain the Guadalcanal kinship terminology without Rivers knowing the language. The recognition that there is a structure or system. His knowledge of English enabled Rivers. that marriage is a cultural universal. it is desirable to use as few terms denoting kinship as possible. Rivers tells us that Arthur. Wi) will be found in all societies. had been in Queensland. In the article. bilingual native speakers are the best sources of information about the kinship terminology. implying some kind of historic relationship.

As my knowledge of the language progressed. – 272 – . interestingly enough. Rubel “terms of relationship. he again discusses this problem. Since strict verbal equivalents are “. and then by having contrastive forms provided which are opposite in meaning. or love magic). Malinowski presents his discussion of “the methods used in the collection of ethnographic material”. word for word. than I recognized that I was thus acquiring at the same time an abundant linguistic material and a series of ethnographic documents which ought to be reproduced as I had fixed them. and cognates of the word under discussion (p. This holds true of two civilized languages as well as of a `native’ and a `civilized’ one. it is never the substitution of word for word. besides being utilized in the writing up of my account. entitled “The Translation of Untranslatable Words. Malinowski makes much greater use of ethnographic texts. Trobriand words are to be defined by being placed in the cultural context in which they are used (like competitive kula. Malinowski’s solution is to see translation as a matter of representing the cultural reality of one society in the language of another. 16). he noted. On the other hand.” The second form.Abraham Rosman and Paula G. is used for ownership and temporary possession (Rivers 1968 [1910]: 488). . No sooner had I arrived at this point. 11–12). In the first chapter of Argonauts of the Western Pacific. Regarding his own work in Kiriwinian. till at last I found myself writing exclusively in that language. but invariably the translation of whole contexts” (pp. and enables a more accurate translation.” In Malinowski’s “Supplement” to Ogden and Richards The Meaning of Meaning. rapidly taking notes. of each statement. I found still some difficulty in writing down the statement directly in translation which at first I used to do in the act of taking notes. gardening. The translation often robbed the text of all its significant characteristics – rubbed off all its points – so that gradually I was led to note down certain important phrases just as they were spoken in the native tongue. I put down more and more in Kiriwinian. Since no simple equivalence of word for word is adequate. (Malinowski 1922: 24) In his analysis of Trobriand horticulture. Coral Gardens and Their Magic. and how he developed a procedure for translation. The translation must always be a re-creation of the original into something profoundly different. word-for-word translation and free translation. This work also includes a more detailed discussion of translation in general in a section. noting. .” He begins with the “absolutely true proposition that the words of one language are never translatable into another. alienable possession. This information regarding the way different forms of possessive pronouns are attached to kin terms is important because it provides additional ethnographic information about the meanings of the terms. never to be found. Malinowski also cautions us about the need to keep “homonyms apart. though the greater the difference between two cultures the greater the difficulty of finding equivalents” (Malinowski 1965[1935]: 11).

In our discussions of Rivers. since this relationship can be ended through divorce. This may be because the father relationship cannot be ended. also recognizes their importance. The implication here is that the ethnographer must have a better than adequate knowledge of the field language in order to successfully convey the cultural reality of his or her informants. As Rivers pointed out. (1923: 300) In the end. magical rites – all such words are obviously absent from English as from any European language. and this indeed is the case in Trobriand kinship. Malinowski notes that for “practical convenience”. not by giving their imaginary equivalent – a real one obviously cannot be found – but by explaining the meaning of each of them through an exact Ethnographic account of the sociology. The term (gu) – inalienable “my” – is provided as a suffix or an infix for almost all the kinship terms given in Malinowski’s chart of the kinship terminology. All words which describe the native social order. Malinowski makes the point that one must also clearly understand the grammar and general structure of the language which one wishes to translate. Although the father (tama) is considered an affine in Trobriand kinship. for grammar compels a speaker to use one grammatical form. This is to prevent the ethnography from becoming unreadable by overloading it with native terms. all expressions relating to native beliefs. language is an essential aspect of cultural reality and that cultural reality must be utilized in translations. That such foreign conceptions do exist for native languages and in great number. This kind of analysis of pronoun use enables us to have a better understanding of Trobriand ideas about kinship. He shows that there are two forms of possessive in the Kiriwinian language. However. Though Malinowski does not specifically indicate that this is the alienable form. ceremonies. not another. Such words can only be translated into English. as in other Melanesian languages – alienable possessive and inalienable possessive. which has a single possessive form. is clear. though this is theoretically inadequate. kinship terms in Melanesian languages almost always take the inalienable form. which is discussed in The – 273 – . In Malinowski’s eyes. culture and tradition of that native community. the translation must indicate “my” – alienable or “my” – inalienable. one suspects that it is. it is necessary to use the lexical equation of an English and a native word. or whether it covers an entirely foreign conception. but to state exactly whether a native word corresponds to an idea at least partially existing for English speakers. a different prefix (ulo) is given for the terms for husband and wife.Are Kinship Terminologies Translatable? But the object of a scientific translation of a word is not to give its rough equivalent sufficient for practical purposes. Nowhere does Malinowki describe the method he employed for gathering information on the Trobriand kinship terminology. we saw that the organization of possessive pronouns was relevant to the consideration of kinship terminology. Malinowski. When translating alienable and inalienable pronouns into English. and not a true relative (veyola). the term tama takes the inalienable suffix gu like all the other kinship terms save husband and wife. in his own analysis of kinship terminology.

dogs. an extension and a metaphor” (1929: 442–443). ‘all the women of the father’s clan’.” – 274 – .Abraham Rosman and Paula G. “all dogs belong equally to the category. from the outset.’ or. these individuals are referred to as “fathers” by extension. Malinowski. Malinowski does not recognize that there is a principle which places the two sets of kinship terms (“lawful woman” and “ancestor/ descendant”) in the same category. . and these are extended to members of other kinds of social groupings beyond the family. in its primary meaning. The primary meaning of a term refers to the first person for whom the child is taught to use the term. in The Sexual Life of Savages talks about the “father” relationship. ‘ancestor’ and ‘descendant’” (1929: 442). Malinowski argues that “The primary meaning of this word is ‘father’s sister’. the term tama. in discussing the kinship term tabu. The term tabugu “also has the wider meaning of ‘grandparent. In this sense. there can be no doubt that the new use of the word remains always what it is. is the anomaly of a father. . Its meaning is then extended to other persons up to the periphery of the vaguely defined boundary. In Leach’s approach. He treats them as homonyms. The alternative to Malinowski’s approach is Leach’s category approach to kinship terms. by extension. inagu.” and all persons called tama in Kiriwinian are equally tama. His field notes contain a whole series of genealogies. . although she is called by the same term as the own mother. is used for the individual who is recognized as the father of the child. who. and. for example. When he cannot find a common denominator.’ ‘grandchild. Malinowski’s position on meaning and its extension in the use of kinship terms is directly relevant to his approach to translation. in ego’s own generation. in terms of the father relationship. Some kinship usages he even considers to be homonyms. the term signifies “lawful woman” with whom both sexual intercourse and marriage are proper (see Malinowski 1929: 450–451). Malinowski takes the position that the primary meanings of kinship terms are those within the family. in its widest sense. given an entirely different meaning – something like ‘second mother’ or ‘subsidiary mother’ . Rubel Sexual Life of Savages. tama. Malinowski considers such terms anomalous. The word inagu extended to the mother’s sister is. He sees kinship terms from the point of view of the order in which a child learns terms. Did he use Rivers’ genealogical method? Or did he gather the information about kinship terms in the form of a series of texts from which he extracted the terms and information regarding their use? His use of the kin terms and his translations in the text of The Sexual Life of Savages is not consistent. The term is extended to a series of men. by doing this type of translation. He notes. mother’s sister. is very definitely distinguished from her. It also embraces ‘father’s sister’s daughter’ or ‘paternal cross-cousin. and he never considers their relation to the Trobriand word tabu meaning “forbidden act.’ and wider yet. The result for Malinowski. Similarly. According to Malinowski. “. When the term tama is translated by Malinowski in the ethnography. . ‘all the women not of the same clan’” (1929: 423).

As we shall see below. how is he or she to know whether or not the term refers to someone within the nuclear family or to someone beyond it? It is the “context of cultural reality. when one attempts to map the meaning of terms in the “native language” onto a Western language the ethnographer’s theory – such as Malinowki’s regarding primary terms and their extensions – plays an important role. As they are here. though we have a single category term uncle.” tama. Malinowski never discusses the basis for his saying that the primary meaning of tabu is FaSi. quite a different theory from that of Malinowski. ignoring generational differences. – 275 – . or a page of description of “context. paternal. we have no difficulty in distinguishing between our different kinds of “uncles” – maternal vs. not MoMo. Nor does Malinowski inform us as to why one extension is “anomalous” and another not.” Malinowski glosses tama(gu) as “Father. as we noted earlier. since the primary meaning of latu. Malinowski argues that Trobrianders can and do differentiate their real father from their father’s sister’s son. affinal. In his “Table of Relationship Terms. for it demonstrates the influence which language has upon customs and ideas” (1929: 447).” What is the relationship between translation and this discussion of the way in which primary kin terms – that is. males of one’s father’s clan (1929: 434). tama. His argument is that. the translation applies “father” to “all males of father’s sub-clan” including the father’s heir (his sister’s son). father’s brother. let’s say English. consanguineal vs. in a word or phrase. as to whether the primary meaning or one of its extensions is intended. is “child. “The anomalous extension of the word for father (tama) to father’s sister’s son is important. For example.” When confronted with the Trobriand kinship term tama. which provides a key to the meaning of the term – that is. if a Trobriand woman is called latu by a male ego. However.” latu. implying that FaSi is closer than MoMo though the term for both is tabu. Malinowski says that one looks for an English equivalent.” the cultural context in which the terms are used. Leach argues that kinship terms are category terms.” treating it like the term for a larger category. father’s sister’s son. When the anthropologist is confronted with the kin term for the first time and the need to translate it. rules about preferential or prohibited marriages must always be phrased in kinship terms in the native language. this inhibits their sexual feelings and prevents marriage. he may not marry her. because the male crosscousin calls his female cross-cousin (MoBrDa) “daughter. father’s clansman. later in the text he states.Are Kinship Terminologies Translatable? The use of the term tama (father) for patrilateral cross-cousin is one of the distinctive features which makes Trobriand kinship terminology a Crow terminology. In similar fashion. In the translation of kin terms. according to Malinowski. that the behavior toward the two is very different. terms used within the nuclear family – are extended to kinsmen in other categories of relationship? In translating a term or word into another language. and that the meanings of tama differs when applied to the two though they both are classified together in the single category. and she calls him “father.

In the Arapesh system. awhilap. Needham used other people’s translations of Purum. derived from the Melanesian bird totemic practices. she notes. supplemented with Arapesh special words” (1940: 337). she does note that “the word for gens. nieces and nephews. Firth thought it was . or cross-cousins. Later. taught Mead Arapesh. Mead “analyzed” Arapesh kinship and the kinship terminology without recognizing that it was an Omaha terminology and the implications of that. I asked. Since Mead published the data on kinship terminology. who was fluent in pidgin English. under the influence of Lévi-Strauss. without his shedding any light on the problems of translation. “I used pidgin English in talking to the men who had been away to work and Arapesh in talking to everyone else. is hardly ever used. the dominant figures in British social anthropology after him ignored the topic. Regarding Mead’s knowledge of the Arapesh language. The pidgin English conversations were. Rubel Though Radcliffe-Brown used kinship terminologies in his comparative research. as I recorded the names of adult males. in the following manner: “Formally. he assumed the accuracy of the data collected by other ethnographers and never discussed the accuracy of the translations. I do not know. or nephew” (Mead 1947: 199). . Instead. However. Lushai and Kuki terminologies in his analyses. cross-cousin. nor may a man marry a woman whom he calls either aunt. ‘What pigeon’ and so received at once the local gens proper name” (Mead 1947: 181). it was Fortune who studied the Arapesh language and collected texts. there are no separate terms for what would be the equivalent of the English terms aunts. Fortes paid only lip service to it. one set of cross-cousins (MoBrChildren) are called by the same terms as MoBr and MoSi. the word for clan or gens. it can be concluded that she collected the data. Often knowledge of the structure of kinship relationships is of assistance in the translation of kinship terms. But in an Omaha kinship system. While Leach was very concerned with the translation and meanings of kin terms. daughter. whether I should ever have found it without the help of the pidgin English ‘pigeon’. the children of parents who use brother and sister. “EvansPritchard hardly touched it. nor may a woman marry a man whom she calls father. She does not inform us whether she used Arapesh or pidgin English to collect the terminology. as we shall see below. – 276 – . In Margaret Mead’s collaboration with Reo Fortune during their Arapesh field work. the other set (FaSiChildren) are called by the terms for SiDa and SiSo. uncles. In her discussion of the Arapesh marriage rule. or niece. she stated the prohibitions on whom one may marry using English kinship terminology. When I made the census.Abraham Rosman and Paula G. or mother’s brother. however. However. . Fortune’s linguistic informant. like ornaments” (1995: 131). whenever necessary. both Needham and Leach return to a vigorous consideration of kinship terminologies. As Schneider notes. she did not phrase its limits in Arapesh kin terms. or two-generations-apart-child-of-crosscousin terms to each other are not allowed to marry.

” in which he analyzed Kachin terms as category terms mapped onto to what Leach refers to as an “idealized form of the social order” (Leach 1945: 51). was also incorrect since that individual’s lineage is neither a giver nor a receiver of women from ego’s lineage. male children of all members of first descendent generation. The marriage rule phrased in terms of the terminology provides a map which says that anyone called by this term is prohibited as a spouse. could and could not marry. and for SoSo and SoDa. just before Lévi-Strauss published Elementary Structures of Kinship. thereby providing important clues for the translation of these terms. the marriage rule for the Jinghpaw. Leach published “Jinghpaw Kinship Terminology. The structural characteristics of the kinship terminology and the nature of the marriage rule have internal logics of their own. Reo Fortune had done research on the language in the field and had collected texts in the Arapesh language. and he informed us that there was only one term (balohan) and that the other was a misspelling.Are Kinship Terminologies Translatable? Mead’s chart of the kinship terminology includes two terms – balahan. as MoFaSiSoSo. The kinship terminology was examined as it related to the marriage rule. Thus. in reality. the former a collateral relative two degrees removed. and the latter a lineal relative two generations down from ego. The translation of kinship terms must therefore pay attention to both of these aspects of meaning. Radcliffe-Brown and Mead had paid attention to that observation. In fact. and that kinship terminologies have other functions as well. We consulted him in 1972 about this anomaly. anyone called by that term is permitted. in accordance with matrilateral cross-cousin marriage. Mead’s definition for the term balahan (balohan). not only do kinship terms have meanings in that they designate a category of individuals. Attempting to use English terms to characterize the marriage rule does not come close to providing an adequate translation of the meanings of the kin terms and the structure to which they are related. as given above. The terms balohan (male) and baloho’ (female) were used for FaFaSiSoSo and FaFaSiSoDa respectively.” Reworking her data on kinship terminology in terms of the structure of an Omaha terminology. In 1945. If Malinowski. is far too narrow. the same term and should have been spelled in the same way. When phrased in lineage terms it stipulates that ego cannot marry into the six lineages which have given or received women from his lineage in the three previous generations. which is unquestionably true. but in addition they contain meanings regarding marriageability. glossed as “Mother’s father’s sister’s son’s son” and balohan. their analysis of the respective kinship terminologies they analyzed would have been strengthened. the speaker. One might argue that Lévi-Strauss’ dictum. Some time ago Lévi-Strauss made the point that the function of kin terms was to indicate which relatives ego. – 277 – . all other patrilineages were either wife-givers or wife-takers to ego’s own lineage. In this model. glossed as “Grandson. it seemed that these two terms were.

. with rare exceptions. applying a more sophisticated linguistic approach to his reexamination of Jinghpaw kin terms. Leach begins his discussion by arguing that the Kachin view “relationships” in the same manner as a linguist does in phonological analysis – two male persons belonging to the same lineage have a kin relationship and are terminologically differentiated by the factor of age as younger brother and older brother. One brother must refer to the other brother as either older or younger brother. The argument may not mean what you think. “This particular linguistic pitfall has in the past led to a vast amount of anthropological confusion. the primary meaning deriving from relations within the elementary family and the extensions outward to other more distant relationships. it still does.” He also rejected Malinowski’s approach to the meaning of kin terms – that is. “. The concept of ‘category’ as found in Kachin must be a very fundamental one for Kachin – 278 – . Leach argues that the Kachin think of kin terms as ‘category’ terms. tama means father). In Leach’s words. this time drawing inspiration from Roman Jakobson. The Kachins say “they are distinguishable as brother and brother” (Leach 1967: 136). the problem was to discover the organization which makes Jinghpaw terminology ‘logical’ to a native (1945: 50). mayu (wife-givers). Trobriand or Jinghpaw) into “father. while kinship words in most European languages are applied. only to relationships within the private domain and thus have quite specific meanings. Therefore in the translation of kin terms. in contrast to Malinowski’s approach. but one must define who and what is included and who and what is not included in a category. brother. as Malinowski does. When you read anything that an anthropologist has written on the topic of kinship terminology be on your guard. The term “father” may have a single meaning in English. sister and child” (e. According to Leach. whereas in other languages it is applied to a large category of persons and has a wide range of meanings. the problem lies in the fact that. mother. and dama (wife-takers) – and the relatives in each of these categories live in a different locality. According to Leach. According to Leach. Leach stated that initially his approach to kinship owed much to the views of Malinowski. Leach’s approach to kinship terminology emphasizing categories.g. it is not sufficient to merely use the primary term in English. Rubel Early in this article. the corresponding words in most other languages are highly polysemic” (pp. has clear implications for translation. 138–139). it is a great error to translate Rivers’ five basic terms from a native language (Crow. Jinghpaw terms fall into three distinct categories – hpu-nau (ElBrYoBr). his teacher. but that he no longer accepted Malinowski’s tenet of the “universality of the elementary family. Leach returned to the Jinghpaw kinship terminology in 1967.Abraham Rosman and Paula G. the author himself may not have understood what he is saying” (Leach 1982: 137–138). . By the 1960s Leach had become the severest critic of Malinowski’s approach to kinship and kinship terminology.

and that the root meanings of kin terms are also in other Kachin words. . . “. But I think that if we are to understand what the term nu ‘really means’ when considered as a kinship term we need to take these other uses into account” (Leach 1967: 138).’ ‘home. the meanings of Kachin kin terms are greatly expanded. as used for all mothers and people whom mother calls sister. In Kachin. the metaphors which Kachins employ to represent social links are things which divide rather than things which tie together” (Leach 1967: 136). He had promoted the idea that American – 279 – . constantly demanding gifts and tribute which the dama lineage must pay. payment–debt and exchange.’ ‘original. Through connections between these words and other structures. must go beyond the category meanings of these terms. to Leach. which in turn had important implications for translation. birds. The translation of terms within a category will always depend on the cultural context of the particular usage. includes the other meanings glossed above. He is arguing that the same principles of classification that unite and differentiate kinsmen into categories are also operative in other domains. (Mayu and myu are related terms. Ego perceives his dama lineages as. “. as do “time” and “tide. they are rather the application of the same idea to different situations. . In the conclusion of the article. One’s mayu ni. is the proto-type of ‘different kind’. can curse his sister’s children. those with whom we fight and those to whom we give women” (Leach 1967: 143).) Leach disagrees with Malinowski’s argument that the different meanings of a term such as the Trobriand term tabu represent homonyms. a whole range of other meanings of these terms is revealed. etc. “Such uses are not ‘metaphors’. nu also means ‘mother. . The mother’s brother.’ and ‘the soft core of anything. The social structural category from which mother comes. Leach maps the structure of kinship terminology onto other Kachin structures – that of the allocation of land–water. epitomizes greed. And so it is. who is in one’s mayu lineage. The meaning of the category nu (mother). demonstrating that the domain of kinship does not exist in isolation. the mayu lineage. As a result of the analysis. Just as the English words “kin” and “kind” derive from an older common form. The term myu is the word for ‘kind. all of these structures consist of entities which are “divided” rather than “tied together” – thus demonstrating that they are “structural transformations” of one another.Are Kinship Terminologies Translatable? speakers (Leach 1967: 136). humans are classified in lineages.’ as in trees. but also advocated what he saw as a new way of looking at kinship. mother’s lineage.’ According to Leach. David Schneider in A Critique of Kinship (1984) not only criticized the ways in which anthropologists had examined kinship terminology earlier. It is also the term for “lineage” – that is. According to Leach. The implications of Leach’s theoretical approach for the translation of kin terms is considerable.” the various meanings of Kachin kin terms must all be considered together to arrive at the meaning of the category for which the kin term stands. fish. Therefore the translation of kin terms.

He then proceeds to call into question analyzing culture and dissecting it into separate “institutions” – kinship. anthropologists “adhered to the traditional definition of kinship as the relations arising out of reproduction” (1984: 130). In Schneider’s view. he found that informants saw “halfbrother” as a kind of brother. which use the modifier “in-law”. All societies have a category of persons which our culture classifies as “relatives”. one – 280 – . while stepbrother is created through the marriage of a parent. These are the building blocks of which particular cultures are constructed.” in terms of “the way in which we define it and its functions” (Schneider 1984: 132). Schneider argues that in American kinship there is a basic distinction between affinal terms. But. In Goodenough’s research on American kinship. Boas. the word has meaning . but not “step-brother” (Goodenough 1965). etc. A kinship terminology is one such system of classification. Schneider claims that anthropologists have always seen kinship as a “privileged system. it has a name. each of which is a native “cultural construct”. such as Malinowski. meaning step as in staircase. “In-law” clearly has other meanings. In fact. following Morgan. . the category of kinship seems to rest on assumptions about the biological nature of human reproduction. The connection between the usages is that a relative-in-law has the connotation of a relationship constructed through legal means. Schneider concurs. myth. They are homonyms. . art. used to refer to a relative created by the marriage of a parent. and consanguineal terms for “blood” relatives. the American modifier “step”. and Lévi-Strauss. noting that. religion. economics. Schneider may be correct when he says the “domain” of kinship is vaguely defined in anthropology. since every language has words for kinship categories. together form a system or structure. According to Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary. Rubel kinship was a system of cultural symbols and should be examined in the same manner as other symbolic systems. He argues that ideas about institutions like kinship are Western concepts which anthropologists impose on other societies. as Leach had pointed out earlier. . has no relationship to step. – which are alleged to carry out “functions”. The questions we should be asking are: “. In the minds of many anthropologists. politics. or the movement of the foot. The reasoning behind this is that a half-brother shares common blood. What we should be looking at.” (1980: 3). Within this domain. as contrasted with a blood relative created by natural means. “it is a cultural construct or unit of some kind because there is a word for it. according to Schneider. A set of kin terms. Had Schneider attended more closely to what Levi-Strauss borrowed from linguistics and specifically from Boas. of what blocks is this particular culture built? How do these people conceptualize their world?” (1984: 197). . In his analysis of American kinship. societies construct different categories. he might have looked at how systems of classifications in each language serve to organize semantic domains.Abraham Rosman and Paula G. are what Marcel Mauss referred to as “total social facts” (Schneider 1984: 197).

Cross-cultural comparisons have demonstrated that both terminologies and the kinship systems of which they are a part fall into a limited number of categories. This would illuminate the categories or “spaces” of meaning encompassed by particular kin terms. They are not collections of discreet lexical items. One would then have recourse to what Malinowski called an examination of how kinship terms were used in a variety of cultural contexts. are important factors in this process. For example. Kinship terminologies echo an important point for translation. The first is the problem that the field worker has in eliciting a kinship terminology from an informant.2 David Schneider’s critique that the “building blocks” and units for each society should derive from the society itself echoes Boas’ call that linguistic analysis should not proceed by imposing Latin grammatical categories onto native languages of the new world. The typologies of kinship structures employed in anthropology are the products of such comparisons. It is a semantic category found in all languages. art and aesthetics. the rest of the system will change accordingly. The analytical categories must emerge from each language. and religious beliefs have systems of their – 281 – . A hundred years of ethnographic field work have demonstrated that there are a limited number of ways in which kinship terminology can be ordered. But cultural relativism is not the answer. Kinship terminology is not ambiguous or vaguely defined. Crosscultural comparison involves comparing and contrasting the structure of kinship systems in different societies. and the presence or absence of bilingual informants. Each kinship terminology has an internal logic of its own. The construction of each category would be revealed by specifying the cognates of the term and their various referents. This leads to cultural relativism. The constructs utilized in the analysis of kinship terminologies have been refined over the years.Are Kinship Terminologies Translatable? can begin with kinship terminology rather than kinship. on the basis of which comparisons and typologies can be created. Rivers’ genealogical method may be used to obtain a preliminary picture of the kinship terminology. like the phonological systems of a language. Other aspects of culture also have a systemic character. they are systems. The boundaries of such categories would be determined by specifying their “opposites” and what they contrast with. The knowledge that the field worker has of the language. the position of many postmodernists. to a greater or lesser degree. If one takes into account the cultural context of their use. It would appear that Schneider’s dictum would lead to the conclusion that each culture had its own distinctive “cultural constructs”. when one element of the system changes. untranslatable into those of another culture. The semantic categories of a particular society’s kinship terminology are mapped onto a map of genealogical spaces which have English labels. fewer than the number of logically possible types. Two problems present themselves with regard to the translation of kinship terms. kin terms and the systems which they comprise are translatable.

American Anthropologist (Special Publication) 67(5) pt. —— “The Language of Kachin Kinship: Reflections on a Tikopia Model. Freedman (ed. 1947. A single term in one kinship system may encompass a number of kin terms in a different kinship system. Those others are not.). in the dark. They belong to other categories – those I may or may not marry. 125–52. Notes 1. 2. The componential analysis of kinship terminology also deals with categories and the components which comprise their internal construction. componential analysis of kinship terminology in the hands of Lounsbury. However. Leach. M. those who do or don’t practice witchcraft towards me. but they can be specified on a universal genealogical grid. Edmund. A. Once this is realized. for the child.). Lastly. became an increasingly formal method of description. London: Cass. with no relationship to systems of marriage and descent or other cultural domains References Goodenough. 1965.” These groups and categories vary from one society to the next. pp. “Yankee Kinship Terminology: a Problem in Componential Analysis” In Formal Semantic Analysis.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 75. “These are the members of the kinship group to which I belong. for example. Ward. The genealogical grid provides the basis for kinship terminologies. “Jinghpaw Kinship Terminology – an Experiment in Ethnographic Algebra.” In Social Organization: Essays Presented to Raymond Firth. Rubel own. He is no longer a lonely walker in space. These are my relatives. 59–72. pp. Kinship terms label these groups and categories. pp. Hammel (ed. – 282 – . E. contrastive category. kinship terminologies fall into a limited number of types. and each of these types follows its own logic. Rivers notes that one of the difficulties in obtaining “pedigrees” or genealogies from informants is that there may be a taboo on the use of the names of individuals who are deceased. and the development of the analytical categories which allow cross-cultural comparison. and how a change in a component creates a different. membership categories which serve as identities defining the self. those who may steal my cattle or suck my bones when I die. it can be of enormous help to the translator. 1945. 259–87. Terminologies carry out universal functions in all societies – to chart out.Abraham Rosman and Paula G. 2.

pp. pp. Rivers. Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge. Ogden and I. D. 3. Socioeconomic Life. 1984. Radcliffe-Brown. A. —— Coral Gardens and their Magic. R. K. No. 1982.). New York: Harcourt. New York: E. 1965 [1935]. American Kinship: A Cultural Account. A. 1995. Bronislaw.” African Systems of Kinship and Marriage. pp 1–85. 317–451. “Introduction. Glasgow: Fontana. 3. Durham. 1968 [1910]. pp. Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity of the Human Family. —— Schneider on Schneider: The Conversion of the Jews and Other Anthropological Stories. —— The Sexual Life of Savages in North-Western Melanesia. NC: Duke University Press. New York: Harcourt. London: Athlone. Morgan. Forde (eds. David. Lewis Henry.” In Kinship and Social Organization.Are Kinship Terminologies Translatable? —— Social Anthropology. 1923. pt. The Meaning of Meaning. Malinowski. R. A. Richards. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. 296–336. Dutton. Washington. As told to Richard Handler. 1929. 2nd ed. Mead. D. Schneider. 97–109. Argonauts of the Western Pacific. 17.: Smithsonian Institution. Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History 37. 1950. pp. P. —— The Mountain Arapesh III.C. H. 2 vols. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 159–420. – 283 – . Bloomington: Indiana University Press. —— “The Problem of Meaning in Primitive Languages” supplement to C. W. “The Genealogical Method in Anthropological Inquiry. London: Oxford University Press. Commentaries Raymond Firth and David Schneider. pt. 1961 [1922]. Margaret. 1871. Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History 40. R. The Mountain Arapesh II. Brace. Supernaturalism. 1980. Radcliffe-Brown and C. —— A Critique of the Study of Kinship.


253 Baby Talk. Chinua. 4. 169. 187. Bertolt. 124 analytical concepts in. 28–31. 41 Bujra. 36. 128. 112. 4 Apocalyptic Literature. 55. 7. 2. P. Johann. 184 Austin. Suzanne. 112. 41. 1 symbolic and interpretive. 33. 85. 25. 8. John. 67–70 Belief Systems. 219 Caton. Thomas. 124. 146–148. 32 Burmese. 101 formal academic discipline.. 20. 213–230. 110 Baule. 18. 41 African art. 25–27. 159. 96. 28. 192 Biblical and religious texts. 225 Aranda. 181. 183 Aristotle. 177. 265.L. 135–137. 19. 232–247 Bilingualism. 46–53. 249–264 Anderson. 147 Benveniste. 157. 283 Chinese. 58–61. 184. 39. 211 Brecht. Ruth. Harold. 128. 45–73 Benedict. 271. Talal. 187 Bulmer. Pascal. Susan. 141–143. 19. Lila. 254 Boyer. 160 Adorno. 20. 5. 129 Austronesian Languages. 98. 253. 275–277 Area studies. 26. 141–143. 183 Bakhtin. 10. 180 Balinese. Nicholson. 25. 36 British social anthropology. 117. 98 Bachofen. 218. 82 Armbrust. 147 Aramaic. Ned. Theodor. 7. J. Alton L. 4. Franz. 17 Blier.. 15 anthropological theory regarding translation. 19. 5. 209 Berber. 1. 182 – 285 – . 201. 204–206. 238 Boas. 39. 5. 32. 25 anthropological translations. 12. Benedict. 21. 213–247 Clifford. 193. 112. 39. 92 prehistory of. 35 Azande. 280 Black American English. 215. 3. 33. Abdalla S. 41. 197–212. 131. 258–9. 57 124 cultural translation. as a. 224–244 Aquinas. Ralph. 62. 219. 63. 17. 164. Walter. 88. 113... 66. 37. 157. 189 Asad. 146. 19. Emile. 198 Anthropology American historical anthropology. 275 cognitive. 40 Behaviorism. 38 Campbell. 97. Catholicism. 16. 184 Chomsky. 6 Bateson. 65. 33 Christian faith. 12. 155. 86. as a. 164 Anthropocentric pragmatism. 39. 1. 182. Richard. 215 Arabic. 124 Becker. 191. 283 Bourdieu. 56. 97 cultural anthropology. 147. Mikhail. 16. James. 209. 21. 52 Catholic Church. 76. 84. 177–194 Classical. 263 Bauman. 135–137. Noam. 270. 116–122. 38. 111. 96. 1 social science. 188. 190 Achebe. Steven. 38 Arapesh. 16. 6. 13. 2 Baker. 190 Moroccan. 37. 127 Cargo Cults. Gregory. 37. 115. 10. 32. 279–281. 252 Block. 26. 164 Basnett. 136. 29 Benjamin. 65. 38. 29. 214. 192 Cherokee. 57 Bloom.Index Abu-Lughod. Walter. 9.

3. 277 French. 83–87. 2. 21. 182–184. 11. 178 Eickleman. colonization. 178. 149. 63–66. 164 Ethnic Identities. 275. 109–131. 252. Jacques. 146. 125–128. 206–210. 177–179. 185 Council of Nicaea and Nicaean Creed. 199. 129 European Contact with New World and Asia 1. Francis. 216. 77. 54–61. 80. 153. 263. 160. 189. 37. 254 Gellner. 124–126. 213. 185 Gell. 32. 250 Geertz. 158.. 260. 240 Gumperz. 99. 110. 57–69 Cohen. 161. 192. 250–252. 265 Forde. 57 Dakota. 94. Dale F. 35 Genetics. 181. 262–3 Dutch. 100. 2–5. 162. 199. 117. 200. 52. 10. 53. 146. 26. 16. 268 Connelly. 129. 66. 27 grammatical categories. 211. 189 Gender. 201. Daryll. 276 Fortune. 153 Firth. 130. 188 English. 184–186. 2–4.. 80. 149. 69. 136. 10. tribe of Cameroon. 148–149. 49 Ethnographic museums. 9. Charles A. Luc. 239. 276 Fodor. 19. 209. view of cognition. 85. 181 Desconstruction. 183. 186. 6. 38. 71. 276 Fagg.. 36. 100. 56. 117. J. 214. 89. 187. 231–232 Denotational Textuality. Folklore Studies. 16. Patrick. 272 comparative. 15. 16. 32. 76. 128. 276. 253 Fortes. 141. Robert. 53. Jerry. 281 Cultural Systems. 161.Index Coetzee. 198. 116. 31. 116. 12. 130. 227. 122. 166. 80. 8. 190 Drewal. 68. 270 Cronin. 32. 185. 96–98. 281 Errington. Mary. 154. 114–122. 129. 115. 11–13. 87. 57 Fieldwork 1–5. 253. 199–200. 36. 253. Paul. Paul K. 168. Susan. 271 De Heusch. 135–148. 118 Field. 64 Folk Art. 112 Grammar. 100. 17. 278 Cultural and Linguistic relativity. 68. 109–111. 38. 209. John J. 35–37. 9. 3. 36–38. 52. 37. 259. 121. 124 – 286 – . 61. Carlton S. 29. 88. 89. 224. 20. 268–270. Clifford. 269. 272–276 Ethnopsychological classification. 182. 96. 178. 281 grammaticopragmatic categories. 87 Greek. 189 Encyclopaedia of Islam. 159. 96. 76. 19–21. 119. 184 Filipino. 18. in. 33 German. 17. 92. 16. 113. 251. 127 Functional-Role Theory.. 38. 184. 160. 15 grammatical analysis. 76–81. 114. Alfred. Edward E. 187 Freud. 189. 64–66. 253 Fang. 154–170. 95 Derrida. 7. Reo. 207.. 197. 35. 128 Colonialism. 7. 2. 112. 18 Spanish conquest of Americas. 8. 162 Ganowanian. 253 Dravidian. 17. Hartry. 148. 185. Raymond.. 113. 229 Frield. 202 Creek. 250 Coon. 269–270 Gauguin. 41 Cognitive Psychology. 256 Comparativism. 250. 13. 76. Joseph. 121–124. 52. 113. 182. 6 Crow. 186 Gal. 187. 62. Sigmund. William. 24. 76. 191. 270. 25–27. 85. 264 Douglas. 179. 126. 120. 90. 14. Ernest. 77. 68 Ferguson. 14. 272–278. 249 Ethnographies and Ethnographic texts. 190. 271 Dresch. 58–64. 109. Anthony. 262 classification systems. 71 Gaffney. 99. 8. 188. 33. M. 91. 135. 81. Henry. 197–212 Evans-Pritchard. 28. 253 Dean-Otting. 127.. 265 Folk Theory. 90 Cummins. 101. Mary. Ernestine. 100. Meyer– 3. 131. 210 Fat Syntax. M. 79–83. 191–194..

113 Lexicopragmatic and grammaticopragmatic regularities of language. 48. 52. 189. 71 Lyotard. 3. 3. 277–9 Kalam. 80 Library of Congress Transliteration System. 154. 53 Hermeneutics. 185–188 Layton. 182. 214. Martin. 191 linguistic-Behavior Conventions. 40. Richard S. 33. 268–283 Kiriwinian. 155. 161. 60. 170 Jaynes. 277. 89 Javanese. 170 Malayo-Polynesian Languages. 207 Interlanguage movements. 193. 271–274 Korean. 125.. 153. Baber. 3. 17 Halperin. 233. 89. 64. Dell. 232.. 161. 2. Harry. 155. 65 linguistic ideology. 32 Kant.Index Haeri. 59. 117. 238. 210. 274. Joseph. T. 281 Lawrence. 244 Jewish Mysticism. 26. 84. 5 Hymes. 165. 2. Marcel. 191. 275–280 Leavitt. 197–198.E. 222–223. 155–158. 26. 124. 202 Lowie. 21. 40. 277–281 Marxism. 238. 92. 4. 180. William. 52. 190. 85. 191 Hawaiian and Hawaiians. 269. 3. 241 Heryanto. 17. 280 Levy. 29–31. 109 Levi-Strauss. 252. George. 164 Hunt. Immanuel. Ariel. 178. 254 Leach. 96. 243 Hindi. 148–9. A. 184. 158. 191 Jung. 59–61. 92. 276. 32 Labov. 35 Malevich. 162 linguistic reflexivity.127. 276. 41. John. 213–216. 162 Islamic politics. Kasimir. 252 Mauss. 182 Intersubjectivity and objectification in language. Roger. 27. 124 Lancaster. 220. 53. Jeffrey. 189. 216.. 97. 201. 61.L. John. 198–200. 249 Keesing. 168. 184. 3. 157. Robert.W. 154 Iroquois. 64 Indonesian. 153 Italian. Catherine. 192 – 287 – . 278 Japanese. 5. Claude. David. 277 Meeker. B. 164. 191 Hebrew. 14. 21. Harry. Margaret. 255 Malinowski. Judith. 27 Kwakiutl. 254. 181. Niloofar.. Bronislaw. 277–8 Johansen. 15.. 188. Jean-Francois. 3. Michael. Roman. 113. 228. 255 Kroeber. 227–229. 149 Heine. 146. 280 linguistic anthropology. 6. 89 Kosuth. 229 Kachin. Carl G. 237. 2. 186 Lutz. 149. 99. 234. 40 Madurese. 162. 78–80. 38. 240–244 Jinghpaw. 110 Jakobson. 240. 94. 194. 164–168. William. 26. 87 Hokkien. 209. 186 Latin. Michael. 126. 233–235. 80 Heath. 122. 98. 182. 90. 161. Martha. 276 Linguistics. 25. 25. 8. 183. 80 Lexicosemantics. 280 Mead. 271 Irvine. 89. 162 Himmelfarb.F. 258 Jackson. 125 Locke. 26. 192 Lingua francas and pidgins 1. 272–275. 181. 214–218. 199. 210. 244 Hegel. 35. 90. Edmund R. 124 Ifaluk. 161. Julian. 191–192 Haitian Creole. 39. 63. 241.. G. 186. 12. 18. 153–170 Inka. 219–221. 181 International Phonetic Alphabet. 82. 100. 177. 37.. 220–222. 27. 161 Malay. 99. Robert. 29. 260 Heidegger. 269. 25. 48. 40. 52 Kinship and Kin Terms. 165 Hoijer. 61. 228 Harrell.

69. 281. 85. 93. 199. 277 Radin.. Michael. 83 Semiotic Transformation. 199. 38 Orthodox or Eastern Church. 26. 202. 18. 17. Lawrence. 201–203 Nida. 21. 113. Christopher. Amedeo. 18–20. 93 Semiotics and linguistics of nations. 233 Quakers. 17. William. 117. 92. 281 Religiously Altered States of Consciousness (RASC) and Religiously Interpreted States of Consciousness (RISC). 95 Saussure. Eugene. 163. Mary. 190 Phonetics. 67. 244 Renaissance. Roy P. 17. 280 Morocco. 27 Relativism.. Douglas. 69. 20. Rodney. 136–151 Ortega y Gasset. A. 120. 2. 18 Picasso. 49 Persian. 3. 12. see Lingua francas and pidgins Polanyi. 48 Sanskrit. 276. 277 Oral Tradition and storytelling. 228 Schildkrout. 167 Quine. 6. Pablo. 34. 122 Positivism. 13 Sapir. 66 Semiotic Transduction. see Arabic Mottahedeh. 76–79. 254 Schleiermacher. 192 Mitchell. Ferdinand de. 117. syntactic characterizations. 25–27. 278. 154. 252 National Identity and Language. John Henry. 120. W. 250 Pidgin English. 157. 252. 112. 26. 31. 9. 17. 205. 219 Psychedelic Drugs. 4. 269 Pawley. 113. 244.. 47 New Testament. 157. 256 Rivers. 282 Robinson. 186 Mundy. Michael. Jose. 183 Philology. Edward. 130 Nepali. 250 Montaigne.T. 269. 7 Schneider. 2. 220. 276 Pidgins. W. 269. 279–81 Semantic evaluation of mental states. Michel de. 216. 15 Rosen. 19–21. 26. 161. 128. 122. 63–65. 87. 101. 269–271.R. 276. 136 Ripinsky-Naxon. Andrew. 217–242. Moroccan Arabic. 101. 168. 20 Needham. Lewis Henry. 252. 116. 256 Schjeldahl. 96.Index Melanesian languages. 124. 25–27. 207 Omaha. 37. Paul. 118. 112 Semantic vs. Alois. 97. 93 Ricoeur. 32. 252. 251. Edward. 77 Radcliffe-Brown. Richard. 9. 32 Pepinsky. 8. 228. 226 Rubin. 256 Postmodernism.. 276. 158–161. 258 Nuer. 249 Morgan. 3. 186 Mitchell. Willard. 164. 30. 149. 112. 209 Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis. 16. 96.H. Peter. 260 Modigliani. 190 Musil. Enid. 94. 129. 271–273 Micronesia. Peter. 8. 34 Politics of language choice. Paul. 281 Newman. Fred. 12 Nooter. Timothy. 270 Navajo. 49. 192 Myers. 157–175 Native Americans. Andreas. 41. 76. 116. 215 – 288 – . Martha. 130 Postcolonialism. 168. 31. 82–85. 2. 199 Papua New Guinea. 59 Missionaries. 243. 254 Russian.J. 214. H. 111. 271–274. 157 Schafer.. 5. 231. 4. 78. 281 Protestantism. 276 Nenedakis. 29. 244 New World Languages. 2. David. 7. 55. 169 Politics of national identity. 10. 18 Samoa. 13. 188 Rowland. R. 155 Septuagint. 156. 125. 89 Said. 258. 269 Mitchaell. 68. 244 Ritual.

94 Wolfson. Colin. C. 62. 258 Shryock. 250 Sociocultural contextualization of language. Zoe. 229 Worora. 20. 110. 81. 18 ethnographic. 101 Translation Theory. 46. 89. as. 30. 13 relationships between minority and majority languages. 78. 258. Stephen. 256. 90 Steedly. Philip. 4. 121. 110 political factors. 116. 25. 58. 148 Syntactic Functional Role Cognitive Theory. 13. G. 82–83 Southeast Asian Languages. 15. 56. Edward. 153. 89. Wilfred. into. 6. 116 Slymovics. 169 Sundanese. 228. 8. 39. 190 Siegel. 18. 6. Susan. 244 – 289 – . 156. Carl. 170 Sign language. 79.Index Shakespeare. 117 intersemiotic. 28. 207 Sperber. 177. 186–188. 210. 6 rendition of intentionality. 117. Benjamin. 253 Tylor. as. 114 Steiner. 84. 230–231 Zoroastrianism. 109 Wilson. 38 Strother. 12. 261. 249. Wilhelm. 21. 262 Structuralism. 37 cultural conventions. 136. 31. George. 17. 89. 100 Tonkawa. 7. 35. 83. 198. 45 Vietnamese. Andrew. Oscar. Brian K. 3. 13. 168 Sukarno. 154. 183 Turkish influence on Greece/Greeks. 179–184. 14 psychological states. Ludwig. 20 cultural. 110. 63 Strehlow. 2. 252 Vellacott. 97 Yanamamo. 257. 185 Thompson. 48. 272–275. 257. 199 Smithsonian Institution. 170 Swahili. 75 Transliteration 177–196 Trobriand Islands. 16 dialect. 181 Standard Average European (“SAE”) Languages. 259 Von Humboldt. 91. 189 Whorf. 86–87 Sociolinguistics. 87 Transcription. 36. 96. 117 Turnbull. 37. Mary. 146 intra-lingual and inter-lingual. 4 Suharto. 130 writing about culture. 117. 53 Turner. 2. 37 Wehr. 110. James. 96. 5. 119.. 256 Tibetans. 164. 40. 87. 17 linguistic. Robert. 1 Translation Studies. 100 Spivak.. 197. 158 Sound symbolism. 127. 25 literary. Victor. Dan. 53. 89. 278. 198. 11. 165. 157 Walbiri. 3. 162. 55. Susan. 188. 181 Swift. 163. 115. 190–193 Translation architecture as a form of. 10. 56. 12. 89. 68 Thesiger. 30 Synaesthaesia. 116. 57. 13. 1 Slavic influence on Greece and Greeks. 5. 258 Stendhal. 91 Spanish. 142. 56 Zen meditation. 76. 38. Robert Farris. 191 Smith. 30 Stich. 21. 116. 95. Elliot R.. 85. Jonathan. 29. 20. 279 Turkish. Hans. 109 Wilde. 137–148 ethics in. 125 Venuti. 80. Lawrence. 96. 33. 161. 243 Wittgenstein. 124. 9. 29. 25. 27. 52. 35 Vogel. 33.

You're Reading a Free Preview

/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->